The Health and Safety Executive has issued a safety warning after lives have been put at risk through bad-habit use of platform lifts.
Platform lifts are vertical lifting platforms. Like traditional passenger lifts, they provide access between floors. Platform lifts are hydraulically or electrically powered and usually operate over two to three floors. Operating at slower speeds than conventional lifts, they typically rely on hold to run operation. These types of platforms lifts are often found in the hospitality, care and education sector.
Fall from Height Risk
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued the health and safety alert after they became aware of several incidents involving:
- Safety devices being tampered with;
- Inadequately maintained landing door hinges and switches; and
- Zone bypass switches being unlocked during maintenance.
This has resulted in landing doors being open when lift cages are not at floor level – workers and members of the public have fallen down lift wells or become trapped beneath moving platforms.
If you maintain platform lifts or own/operate such lifts, then you should be aware of the risks from:
- Tampering with critical safety devices; and
- Inappropriate or poor maintained safety devices.
Safety devices are designed to prevent doors from opening until the platform lift is at a landing floor. Tampering with safety devices allows doors to open when the lift car is not at the landing. This puts users, who often have impaired mobility, at significant risk of falling from height or becoming crushed.
Incidents and Issues
Three incidents have occurred on early-model Nami-lift 400 platform lifts in serial numbers ranging from:
- 2433 – installed in September 1999; to
- 4225 – installed in December 2006.
The door locks on these lifts are controlled by Bowden cables, which are prone to incorrect adjustment.
The HSE has also identified a number of wear/inappropriate maintenance issues:
- Bent door lock switch contacts. While bending may increase the switch contact force, it can prematurely signal to the control system that the door is locked – allowing operation when the locking pin is only partially engaged with the latch plate.
- Shortened door lock pins that do not sufficiently engage the door lock plate – allowing doors to open.
- Incorrectly-adjusted Bowden cables.
- Missing screws used to secure door locks and latch plates.
- Poorly-adjusted unlocking zone bypass mechanisms – meaning the switch remains permanently activated, allowing the platform to travel between floors with landing doors open.
- Damage to doors and door frames resulting in poor door alignment.
Lift maintenance companies should make sure their maintenance activities are competently carried out and in line with:
- Manufacturer’s instructions and/or guidance; and
- Safe systems of work.
Maintenance of the lift’s safety elements must not affect its safe operation. Modifications that may result in unsafe operation must not be carried out.
Owners/operators of vertical lifting platforms should review maintenance and inspection procedures to make sure they are carried out by someone competent i.e somebody is who is qualified to do the checks and not just competent persons. Additionally, they should introduce simple daily checks to confirm:
- Landing doors cannot be opened when the platform is not at the same level;
- Platforms cannot travel without closed and locked doors; and
- Checks are carried out by a Competent Person.