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MAJOR LIFT FIRM FINED OVER OUTDATED PROCEDURES

Death of engineer reveals longstanding system and information failings

ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK Ltd (TKE), a national lift and elevator firm, has been sentenced for safety failings uncovered following the death of a lift engineer from an electric shock whilst he was working at Pentonville prison in North London.

Steven Loake, aged 53, died whilst fixing a prison chapel lift on 5 October 2010. The lift power supply was not isolated and he was found dead by a prison employee the same day.

Southwark Crown Court heard that the cause of the incident was Mr Loake coming into contact simultaneously with a live conductor and metal parts of the lift structure, thus creating a path to earth and giving him a fatal electric shock.

Investigators found the lift had not been isolated from the mains and that Mr Loake’s electrical test instrument had exposed test probes which can lead to ‘flashovers’ or arcing. HSE investigators found the company failed to:

  • System of work – provide a safe system of work for those carrying out work on live electrical systems;
  • Information and instruction – provided sufficient concerning work on electrical systems; and
  • Equipment maintenance – ensure work equipment was fit for use i.e. multimeter was not maintained in good repair and insulation had been stripped back exposing an excessive amount of metal, causing an increased risk of shock and burns.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK Ltd, of Bull Close Road, Nottingham, admitted single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates.

Fatality was an “accident waiting to happen”

ThyssenKrupp Elevator UK Ltd (TKE) was (15 April) fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £25,748 for breaches of safety legislation identified during the HSE investigation.

It was never contended that the breaches directly caused Mr Loake’s death.

HSE told the court that TKE Ltd was fined £233,000 at Southwark Crown Court for a breach of Section (3)1 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in 2010. That case related to the death of a member of the public in March 2003 in an incident involving a lift at the Broadgate Health Club in the City that TKE was responsible for maintaining.

After the case, HSE Inspector John Crookes said:

“The company’s failures in providing a safe system of work along with appropriate information and instruction went back more than ten years. The combined effect of these inadequacies was that all TKE’s lift fitters and field operatives were exposed to an unacceptable risk when working with the company’s outdated procedures.

In that sense, Mr Loake’s death, though not directly caused by the failings, can be seen as an example of the ‘accident waiting to happen’. The extent of the breaches demonstrates that TKE’s performance, as one of the leading companies in the UK lift industry, fell well below the required standard. They should be setting the standard in safety and provide an example to other operators.”

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