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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
May 17, 2010

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Woman was crushed to death by falling lift

Two companies have each been fined £233,000 after a woman was crushed to death by a lift at a health club in central London.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Katarzyna Woja, 32, was stepping out of a lift at the Holmes Place health club in the Broadgate complex, when the incident took place on 12 March 2003.

As Ms Woja was leaving the lift, she became trapped in between the doors as they closed. The elevator suddenly dropped, which caused her to be crushed against the wall of the lift shaft. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Following an investigation, City of London environmental health officers were unable to establish a reason for why the lift had dropped. But it is believed there was either a hydraulic problem, or the lift’s mechanisms froze or crashed.

The court heard that the lift had dropped the day before the incident and an engineer was called to inspect the fault. The prosecution confirmed there were 41 separate call-0outs to the lift between January 2002 and March 2003.

Holmes Places Health Clubs Ltd appeared in court on 14 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.5 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, for failing to protect people being trapped or crushed by the lift. In addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay £170,000 in costs.

The lift manufacturer Thyssen Krupp Elevator UK appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was ordered to pay £205,000 in costs.

Judge Debora Taylor said the accident was “highly foreseeable” and was due to “the complacency of both defendants.” She added: “There was no proper system of work for highlighting failures and the lift should have been taken out of service until the fault was identified.”

City of London director of environmental services, Philip Everett, said: “Both companies were guilty of not ensuring that their employees and their agents were fully aware of the consequences of failing in their responsibilities to manage and maintain the lift. In not dealing with the lift’s well-established erratic, and ultimately deadly, operation, the situation was allowed to go unchecked for many, many months. Employees and contractors simply went about their work unsupervised.€ᄄ€ᄄ“Health and safety management is about both making sure the right checks and balances are in place and that they are actually working. Tragically, for the deceased and for her family, in this case they clearly were not.”

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13 years ago

It would be helpful if SHP could add to the article to explain how the court case was effectively delayed for so long (7 years). The results, findings and lessons of such cases need to be highlighted quickly so that the problem is not continued elsewhere.

13 years ago

After working for a lift company some years ago as an account manager and having to deal with irate customers day in day out. I realised that that particular industry was breaking Health & safety law virtually every day. Engineers were going out ill equipped, attending jobs individually, when the requirement for safety was two men to a job. PPE supplied was poor and wasn’t maintained, they were working 16 hour days to cope with demand sometimes more, I quit after 6 months of hell, and most of the engineers only stuck it out for a few months at a… Read more »

13 years ago

ooh I remember this one… one of the cases that really captured my interest in Health and Safety…. the management should be sued for manslaughter for this… what a dreadful situation… so many times lifts fault and go out of action and as I step into one I always remember this poor young lady… sending lots of best wishes to her family

13 years ago

Yet again directors of companies get away with a fine.When there is a death they should be charged with manslaughter .
Using solicitors who have no morals ,otherwise they would refuse to handle the case,they are able to stretch out the case in the hope that the HSE will minimise the charges.
When are courts going to clamp down and be realistic to what the ordinary person truly think ?

13 years ago

Colin – The EHO informed us that the delay was due to the length of time it took to determine the cause of the lift fault. In addition an inquest is still on going. So these things combined led to the case taking time to be heard in court.