A lift company has been ordered to pay £100,000 in fines and costs after tourists were left with broken legs and ankles when a Tower Bridge lift fell several metres into a service pit because a vital mechanism failed. Following an investigation, the HSE reported clear failings concerning the maintenance of the lift.
Four people sustained bone fractures in the incident at the popular London landmark and a further six were treated for shock as walking wounded.
The lift car they were travelling in was ascending to the Tower Bridge Exhibition when it suddenly fell down the shaft from a distance of approximately three metres.
The company responsible for maintaining and servicing the lift, Temple Lifts Ltd, was sentenced following a complex technical investigation by the HSE, supported by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL). It identified failures linked to the maintenance of two refurbished lifts at Tower Bridge.
Southwark Crown Court heard that ten people, including one agency worker serving as a lift operator, were in the lift when it fell. The other passengers, all tourists, included an elderly couple and a young family.
The car ended up in a pit below the ground floor lift entrance after a counterweight mechanism failed.
The HSE investigation revealed that there had been a number of historic component failures in the counterweight mechanism on two separate lifts at the attraction prior to the catastrophic failure. However, these components had simply been replaced without a proper review and investigation as to why they were failing early.
HSE concluded that the uncontrolled fall could have been avoided had more in-depth analysis occurred, and that the fact this had not happened was indicative of wider failings.
Temple Lifts Ltd, of Baring Lane, London, SE12, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after pleading guilty to two charges covered by Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
After the case the HSE inspector commented that this was a truly disturbing incident that affected a number of people and that could have resulted in even greater injuries.
As the HSE have pointed out it is vital that lifts are properly maintained, and that urgent action is taken if any possible issues or concerns are identified. Businesses that are employed to maintain equipment must make sure they do all they can to ensure the equipment (in this case the lift) is properly maintained.
We understand that the HSE investigation found there were warning signs that were seemingly overlooked, and missed opportunities to properly rectify recurring faults.