• Robert Spicer

Death of child in lift: £1.5 million fines

Health and Safety Executive v Synergy Housing Ltd and Orona Ltd (2019) Bournemouth Crown Court, January 15

Statutory reference: s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

Two companies have been fined after a five-year old child was killed in a lift.

The facts

  • The family of Alexys Brown, aged five, lived in a property in Weymouth. The property had an internal lift used by her disabled brother.

  • The child entered the lift. She put her head through a hole in the vision panel. As the lift moved upwards, her head was stuck. She suffered fatal injuries.

  • Synergy Housing Ltd, the landlord of the property, had an agreement with Orona Ltd for the maintenance and repair of the lift.

  • In May 2015 an Orona engineer noted that the lift’s vision panel was damaged.

  • Tenants were not provided with safety critical information about the operation of the lift.

  • No risk assessment was carried out following the change of lift user when the child’s family moved in.

  • The damaged panel was not replaced.

  • The key switch used to control operation of the lift had been modified from factory installation to allow removal of the key in any position. The switch was in the on position with the key removed and could be operated at any time by anyone.

  • HSE guidance states that lifts should be inspected every six months. In this case, the lift was serviced only four times between 2009 and 2015 and had not been thoroughly examined since 2012.

The decision

  • Synergy Housing Ltd was fined £1 million plus £40,000 costs under s.3 of HSWA.

  • Orona Ltd was fined £533,000 plus £40,000 costs for the same offence.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that the companies had failed in their duties to put systems in place to ensure that the lift was kept safe. Safety-critical aspects of the use and maintenance of the lift were missed. Over a long period of time, the lift became more dangerous for the family to use.

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