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Prevention of Lift Nightmares in the Workplace
Posted by David Cant on March 10, 2014

Health and Safety at WorkLift Nightmare

Life must have been unimaginably difficult before the machines came. Today many people would become handicapped if machines ceased to exist – I mean, who would lift heavy beams up buildings and how could we get up to the top floor of a skyscraper? But as much as staplers, coffee makers, lifts, cranes and other machinery are used on a daily basis, and many of them by ordinary people, they all have a deadly side. 15-year-old Morgan Seaton knows the deadly side of a lift even though this is a lesson that could have been prevented.

School Council Fined for Pupil’s Lift Accident

On 8 December 2011, a Liberton High School pupil fell over five metres down a lift shaft and suffered serious injuries. Morgan Seaton’s troubles occurred because the lift had broken down. Teachers tried to rescue her but she still had to be hospitalized for two days and remain another two weeks away from school. The City of Edinburgh Council was held responsible and consequentially fined.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigations into the incident revealed that the council
committed serious failings in safety and on 25 February 2014, the Edinburgh Sheriff Court passed judgement.

Miss Seaton, together with three other pupils, was in the lift when it got stuck between the first and second floors. She used her mobile phone to call for help at the school’s office and teachers got there fast to attempt the rescue. The teachers and the school janitor decided to do the rescue themselves rather than use the lift’s emergency call button. They fetched the key and opened the lift shaft doors on the first floor. At this point only the bottom third of the lift was visible. They then forced open the doors of the lift car. The first rescue was of a boy, whom they helped lower safely to the first floor corridor.

Miss Seaton next crawled on her stomach out of the lift. A teacher stood behind her as she lay there feet suspended out of the opening, ready to help her drop to the floor. Unfortunately, she slipped through a gap between the floor and the bottom of the lift into the lift shaft where she dropped to the basement over five metres down.

Following her return to school, Miss Seaton still had to have regular medication and physiotherapy for several months as she continued to suffer pain and discomfort.
The HSE investigation uncovered that there hadn’t been any risk assessment, and that the council had failed to inform, instruct, and train the Liberton High School staff on how to deal with incidents of that kind. The council pleaded guilty to breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safetyat Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £8,000.

How to Respond to Lift Emergencies

When a lift gets stuck or when an accident like that of Miss Seaton occurs, the first thing you do is call for the right help. Many injuries and fatalities associated with lift malfunctions can be prevented within the first few minutes of the malfunction. Press the emergency button and call for help from the fire service. While waiting for their arrival, cut the power to the lift because the ar can resume any time. If anyone happened to be in the lift shaft at this time the result would probably be a fatality.

Building managers and employers have a moral obligation to ensure that the building occupants and their staff are all familiar with safety instructions, which include how to handle people trapped in lifts. Occasional safety awareness sessions and emergency drills are also of great help.

These are all steps that keep the risks associated with lifts to the minimum. Had the Liberton High School teachers had some awareness sessions or instructions, they would have called for help from professionals instead of attempting a rescue that put the pupils at such great risk of injury.

Need Help Sensitizing Staff on Safety?

At Veritas Consulting, we will assess your property and advice you on the best way to improve the health and safety of your employees. Call us today on 0800 1488 677 and find out more about our expert services.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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