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December 1, 2023

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Lift maintenance company fined after engineer fatally crushed

A lift maintenance company has been fined £200,000 after an employee died while working at a factory run by Muller Yogurt and Desserts.

Lewis McFarlin. Credit: Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Lewis McFarlin, 24, was fatally crushed when attempting to repair a goods lift at Muller’s Market Drayton factory on 14 January 2020.

He and two other lift engineers at Lift Monitoring Systems were on site to work on a different lift before being asked to resolve an issue with the door-opening mechanism on one of the lift landing doors.

The lift unexpectedly shifted modes

While attempting to resolve the issue, Lewis was on top of the lift car with one engineer in the lift itself and the other outside on the landing. The lift had been placed in inspection mode enabling Lewis to control the lift from the lift’s rooftop. This mode enabled him to assist his colleague, inside the lift, to rectify the issue.

As the work progressed, the lift unexpectedly shifted from inspection mode to normal mode while Lewis was still on top. This sudden transition caused the lift to move at its normal speed, trapping him in a void between the lift car and the structural elements of the lift shaft.

Lewis’ colleagues tried to release him but were unable to. He had already lost his life by the time the emergency services arrived at the scene.

Failure to cover void

Credit: Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was a failure to cover the void in which Lewis became trapped. Had the void been sheeted, the incident ‘could not have happened’.

Lift Monitoring Systems Limited, formerly known as RJ Lift Services Limited, pleaded guilty to failing to discharge the duty imposed upon it by Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The company was fined £200,000 at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on 27 November 2023. Costs will be decided at a later date. Muller was not prosecuted by HSE.

HSE Inspector Andrew Johnson said: “Sadly, in this case, the employer failed to fulfil its responsibilities to ensure that simple and established safety measures like sheeting covering the void that Lewis became trapped in, were in place.

“Had the employer informed the lift owner of this risk and insisted on installing the sheeting before commencing the work, or refused to work until the sheeting was fitted, this tragic incident simply would not have happened.”

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