Health and Safety Executive - Safety Alert

By Dale Smith
24 Apr 2019

A safety alert from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has been published that has focused on Platform Lifts (vertical lifting platforms or lifts for people with impaired mobility). Risk of falls from height to employees/workers and members of the public.

This safety alert is applicable to all Platform lift maintenance companies, owners and operators of platform lifts in a range of sectors, e.g

  • Health and Social Care
  • NHS Trusts
  • Public Buildings

The Safety Alert

Getting a lift

Schools Platform lifts (vertical lifting platforms), like traditional passenger lifts, provide access between floors. Platform lifts are hydraulically, or electrically powered. Usually, they operate over two to three floors. They typically rely on hold to run operation and operate at slower speeds than conventional passenger lifts.

When you analyse fatality rates across accident groups ‘Falls from Height’ is still the biggest cause HSE is aware of a number of incidents involving tampering with safety devices or inappropriate maintenance of door switches or unlocking zone bypass switches during maintenance.

Combined with deterioration of the doors and their hinges, landing doors have opened when the platform/lift car is not at that landing. This resulted in people potentially accessing the lift well when the lifting platform was not at the same floor level/landing. This has resulted in members of the public or workers falling down the open lift well or becoming trapped beneath a descending platform.

Information is provided for maintenance companies on:

  • The risks from tampering with safety critical components (safety devices)
  • Inappropriate or poor maintenance of such components/safety devices.

Safety devices are designed to prevent doors from opening unless the platform lift is at a landing. Tampering with safety devices may allow the doors to open when the platform/lift car is not at the landing. This could result in a significant risk to the users of falling from height or being crushed.

HSE has identified a number of issues as a result of wear or inappropriate maintenance:

  • Bent door lock switch contacts - The contacts on door lock switches have been bent to increase the switch contact force; however, this can prematurely signal to the control system that the door is locked, allowing operation of the lift platform when the locking pin is only partially engaged with the latch plate.
  • Shortened door lock pins which do not provide adequate engagement with the door lock plate, allowing the door to be opened
  • Incorrect adjustment of Bowden cables
  • Missing screws securing door locks and latch plates
  • Poor adjustment of unlocking zone bypass mechanisms, meaning that the switch remains permanently activated, allowing the platform to travel between floors with the landing doors open.
  • Damage to doors and door frames resulting in poor door alignment

Actions required:

1. Lift maintenance companies should ensure maintenance activities are undertaken by competent personnel; in line with the manufacturer’s instructions and/or guidance; and in accordance with a safe system of work. Maintenance of the safety elements of the lift must not affect its safe operation. Modifications intended to keep a lift operating but which may result in unsafe operation must not be carried out under any circumstances.

2. Owners and operators of vertical lifting platforms should:

  • review maintenance and inspection procedures to ensure that these tasks are carried out by persons competent to do so
  • introduce simple tests into daily checks for the lifts to confirm that:
    • Landing doors cannot be opened when the platform is not at the same level and;
    • The platform cannot travel without the doors closed and locked
      The checks should be carried out by a person who is competent to do so.

Relevant HSE Publications

The purpose of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 [1]is to prevent death and injury caused by a fall from height. If you are an employer or you control work at height (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height) the Regulations apply to you.

Need further guidance on this safety alert?

Then speak to a Croner health & safety expert on 0145 858 132.

About the Author

Dale Smith

Dale is an experienced Health and Safety Practitioner having started his career in the logistics sector back in 2004.

Dale has been a Health and Safety Consultant for the past 4 years and recently joined Croner as a Senior Consultant.

He has been a Chartered Member of IOSH since 2014 and has completed the NEBOSH National Diploma, IEMA Certificate in Environmental Management, The Management of Pre-Construction Health and Safety (APS), Scaffold Inspection (NASC), CSCS Card (Professionally Qualified Person), Asbestos Awareness (UKATA) and Advanced Fire Risk Assessor (FPA).

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