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Housing Association fined £1m for lift death 24/01/2019 Labelled as Scrutiny, Tenants

Synergy Housing Ltd, a Dorset based housing association was fined £1million at Bournemouth Crown Court on 19 January 2019 for breaches of health and safety legislation leading to the death of Alexys Brown, a five-year-old girl, who became trapped while using a lift at her home in Weymouth.

 

Following an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Synergy Housing Limited of Poole in Dorset pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £1m and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

 

The Association's lift maintenance contractor Orona Ltd of Sheffield also pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £533,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

 

Bournemouth Crown Court has heard how the family moved into the property in 2009. The property had an internal lift used by the five-year old's brother who suffers from a degenerative neurological condition and is wheelchair bound.

 

On 13 August 2015, Alexys got into the lift to get her brother's phone from upstairs. She put her head through a hole in the vision panel and as the lift moved upward, the five-year-old's head got stuck between the lift and the ground floor ceiling and she died as a result of her injuries.

 

Findings by HSE during the investigation included:

 

  • Tenants were not provided with safety critical information concerning the operation of the lift;
  • No risk assessment was carried out following the change of lift user when the Brown family moved in;
  • Concerns raised during service inspections were not addressed including:
    • The Perspex vision panel had been damaged for up to 18 months prior to the incident. On 12 May 2015, an Orona engineer completed a service inspection and, in his report, wrote "Routine service visit - Glass in door smashed!" but this was not fixed or replaced;
    • Problems with the emergency lowering and lack of emergency hand winding wheel during the whole of the Brown family's tenancy, and which was shown in the documentation from at least January 2011;
    • 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. Because the switch was in the "on" position with the key removed, it could be operated by anyone at any time.
  • Concerns raised by Alexys' brother's health workers were not taken seriously enough;
  • According to HSE guidance, lifts carrying people should be inspected every six months but, in this case, the lift was serviced only four times between 2009 and 2015 and was not thoroughly examined since 2012.

 

Full details of this tragic case can be found on the HSE website.


To ensure the safety of residents, ARCH member councils may wish to review their own arrangements for maintenance of lifts in light of the findings in this case, having regard to the HSE Guidance on the Thorough examination and testing of lifts.

 

 

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