Last year, LEIA (the Lift and Escalator Industry Association) published a safety information sheet about the misuse of lifts and how lift owners can take action to ensure that staff, residents and customers are kept safe and free from danger.
The LEIA safety committee (which consists of lift companies across the UK, including Pickerings Lifts) had become aware of many hazardous situations which involved the misuse of lifts. Most of these incidents were not malicious and were often well-intentioned, for example, in order to help keep a broken lift running or trying to release members of the public who were trapped. Despite this, these actions could put people at extreme risk.
Who is responsible for the safety of a lift in my building?
The owner of the building or the person in control of the building, in line with The Health and Safety at Work Act.
It is the responsibility of the building owner to not only ensure that the lift is well maintained, but to advise staff how to respond when a lift stops working and members of the public are trapped.
If the owner of a building is found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and causing injury or death, this could result in an unlimited fine or two years’ imprisonment.
Examples of misuse
The LEIA safety committee provided some examples of lift misuse they had seen.
Misuse of the door release key:
- The door release key allows the lift landing door to be opened during lift maintenance or in an emergency situation. Opening the landing door when the lift car or platform is away from the floor is dangerous and could lead to a fall that could result in death or serious injury.
- LEIA gave an example where the landing door had been released allowing access to the pit area beneath the lift platform. The person entered the pit thinking they were getting onto the lift platform but then the platform above started to descend. If the platform hadn’t have been stopped, the person could have been crushed between the pit and the platform.
Interference with the electrical supply:
- The electrical supply to the lift should not be interfered with unless the person is a trained engineer. This can result not only in losing electrical supply to the lift (and potentially the building), but also electric shock and the risk of fire.
Misuse of safety mechanisms:
- Safety mechanisms in a lift are there for a reason, in order to keep passengers safe. Overriding them can lead to a fall or contact with a moving lift car.
- LEIA gave an example of a landing door lock that had been wedged with cardboard, leaving the lift to run up and down with the landing door open. Thankfully nobody was hurt but this could have led to a fatal injury if someone had fallen through the landing doors
- In another example, a care home was fined £14,000 after an employee fell down a lift shaft, suffering head injuries. Following a HSE investigation, the door safety mechanism was broken and staff were overriding it with a screwdriver
Untrained staff attempting to release trapped passengers:
- Staff must be trained what to do if a lift stops working, both with and without passengers inside. It may be that the best course of action is to wait for a qualified engineer to attend the breakdown rather than intervene.
- A tragic example was given of a member of the public trapped in a lift at a hotel. Staff tried to release the passenger by cutting the power supply but he fell to his death trying to escape the lift. The investigation revealed that the lift was very old and there had been several recommendations that the lift was updated. The hotel chain was fined £400,000
- One of our engineers was made aware of a situation where a building custodian kept forcing doors open to get out of a lift that needed repairing. The lift was fixed and the custodian was not hurt, but this could have been a very different story
Not using the lift for the purpose it was intended:
- A passenger lift may not be suitable for the movement of goods and vice versa.
- LEIA gave an example of a passenger lift being used to take stock down to lower floors in a nightclub, despite the lift being taken out of action. A member of staff carrying goods fell down the lift shaft and broke their back. The nightclub was fined £10,000 for the incident.
How can I stop my lifts being misused in an emergency situation?
If a lift stops working rather than trying to fix the problem yourself, or using a ‘workaround’ solution, it is imperative that you get professional help from a qualified lift repair engineer.
Having a lift repair contract means that in an emergency situation, all it takes is one phone call, day or night, and a skilled lift engineer will be sent out to fix the problem.
Find out more about Pickerings Lifts maintenance contracts and how we can help keep your business, staff and customers safe.