Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

February 28, 2017

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Court hears how Burghley House butler was fatally crushed


The operators of one of Britain’s most iconic stately homes have been sentenced after a domestic servant was crushed to death by a lift.

Arthur Mellar, 48, a butler at Burghley House in Stamford was killed on 12 July 2014 when a luggage lift descended on him while he was trying to free an item of luggage which had become stuck.

The risk to me was obvious, or should have been obvious. But it was an aberration in an otherwise robust health and safety policy. – Judge Enright

Peterborough Crown Court heard that a luggage lift was being used to lift guests’ bags from the ground to second floor in the private area of Burghley House, which has featured in movie adaptations such as The Da Vinci Code and Pride and Prejudice, when one of the bags became jammed and the lift stopped.

At some point, the butler attempted to free the jammed bags but the lift descended on him, trapping him between the lift cage and the bannister of the stairwell housing the lift.

Examination of the lift showed that it had not been fitted with a slack rope detector, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court an assessment on the lift would have shown the lift should have been thoroughly examined and tested. A competent lift engineer should have identified defects with the lift, including a lack of a slack rope detector.

Burghley House Preservation Trust Limited, Stamford, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £266,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,863.

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Peterborough Today reported that Judge Enright described Mr Mellars’ death as a tragedy and described the butler as “respected and loved by those who knew him.”

He added: “I recognise in particular the impact of this incident on Mr Castillo [his partner] and also the family at Burghley.”

Judge Enright continued: “I find the culpability is high – a failure to put in place measures that were standard in the industry, no health and safety inspection, a failure to respond to defects on the lift which had been flagged up as a result of the apparently minor incidents.

“The risk to me was obvious, or should have been obvious. But it was an aberration in an otherwise robust health and safety policy.”

Speaking after the sentencing, HSE inspector Alison Ashworth said: “Arthur Mellar was killed when a luggage lift descended on him while he was trying to free an item of luggage. This was a completely avoidable incident, and Burghley House admitted its role in it, but of course that will be little comfort for Mr Mellar’s family.

“I would urge any business using lifts, particularly older lifts such as the one in this case, watching this case to ensure correct measures are taken in relation to maintenance of lifts and that competent lift engineers are employed when necessary to identify defects.”

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David Balfour
David Balfour
7 years ago

So I take it Burghley House no longer counts as a private household for the purposes of section 51 of HSW!

7 years ago
Reply to  David Balfour

S 51 is elegantly simple.. “Nothing in this Part shall apply in relation to a person by reason only that he employs another, or is himself employed, as a domestic servant in a private household” In other words, if the employer of said servant is an employer already, domestic servants are not then excluded. Oddly. this was a topic of conversation yesterday, the discussion being around Direct Payment personal care assistants, and whether, if the recipient of DP was also running a business (online trading for example) and therefore ‘self-employed’, this exclusion would still apply. Complicated further now by the… Read more »