Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
July 31, 2013

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Transport and logistics – Lift – Elevation

A passenger lift in a busy office block may complete as many as 750 journeys in a single day.1 The toll on the lift equipment can therefore be immense and the consequences of failure severe. Adam Gilbert explains how practitioners can ensure that the risks to passengers and maintainers are properly managed.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER 98) and the Approved Code of Practice L113 set out precise requirements for inspection and use of passenger lifts. While those responsible for managing lifts normally understand those requirements they are not always clear about what to do when a defect is identified.

Imagine a building manager. She looks after a mid-sized office building with a couple of passenger lifts. There is a routine maintenance plan in place and no serious matters were reported at the last service visit. She’s due to go on holiday for two weeks, and the next six-monthly thorough examination (required by reg.9 LOLER 98) is due while she is away. This is routine, so not a cause for concern. Trouble is, when she comes back, the local EHO is knocking on her door asking why the company is still operating a lift that has a serious defect?  

So, what has gone wrong? Serious defects can develop in a lift at any time. While a good service and maintenance regime — proportionate to the age, type and use of the lift — should be able to identify and prevent defects from occurring, a service visit can only ever assess the situation at that time; tomorrow cannot always be predicted. If a defect does arise, which, in the opinion of a Thorough Examiner, poses an existing or imminent danger to persons, he or she is obliged to notify the duty-holder and specify the timeframe within which the defect should be rectified, or that the equipment should be taken out of use.

If the opinion of the Thorough Examiner is that the defect should be remedied ‘immediately’, it is not appropriate to operate the lift from the moment you are informed until the defect is repaired.

Defects posing a danger to people must also be notified by the examiner to the relevant enforcing authority (reg.10(1)(b) LOLER 98). Westminster City Council in London alone estimates that it receives around 1000 notifications a year, and enforcement notices issued relating to operation of a dangerous passenger lift are fairly common.2,3

So, returning to our building manager: because she wasn’t there to take the lift out of service at the time of the inspection a regulatory breach has occurred. The enforcing authority is on site to investigate why the defect has arisen and has found the lift still operating, placing passengers at risk. Now it has to act.

Because lifts are complex mechanical equipment, there will always be reliance on maintenance personnel and Thorough Examiners to provide appropriate information and advice about the potential danger from any defect. Why, then, in this situation, can the one party specifically recognised as a ‘Competent Person’ (L113, paras 294-5) just walk out of the building leaving equipment fully operational, when they have just deemed it to be unsafe? Is this really an acceptable level of duty of care? Does section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 not apply?

Who did the Thorough Examiner notify while on site? It is common practice to leave notification of a defect with someone on site but there is no guarantee that that person had the understanding or authority to address the danger. If there was no one readily available, perhaps the examiner submitted their report several days later. And it may not even reach the building manager directly, particularly if the latter is not the owner but works for a third-party facilities management company.

Defects identified in lifts during servicing, or which are brought to building-management staff’s attention by passengers need to be treated with equal seriousness. What if the lift hadn’t been inspected at all because the Thorough Examiner could not access the lift motor room in the building manager’s absence? Not only is this a legal breach but it may also affect insurance cover.4

Practitioners need to make sure there is a robust management process that includes everyone who has involvement in the operation, servicing, maintenance, or inspection of lifts. A quick reminder of the main requirements of LOLER 98 is useful here:

  • Regulation 9 requires passenger lifts to be thoroughly examined for defects before first use and every six months thereafter (12 months for goods-only lifts). Further examinations may be required in accordance with a written scheme, or if an incident occurs that may affect the safe operation of the equipment. This regulation also requires equipment to be inspected at suitable intervals between thorough examinations.
  • Regulation 10 requires Thorough Examiners to notify defects that are a danger to persons to both the employer (duty-holder) and the enforcing authority, and make a report of their inspection in writing as soon as is practicable. This same regulation requires the employer to ensure equipment is, as identified in the report, either not used until a defect is repaired, or is repaired within a specified timeframe.
  • Regulation 11 requires thorough examination reports to be retained for at least two years.

Schedule 1 of the Regulations specifies the information that must be included in a thorough examination report.

Having the following management arrangements in place will help ensure you don’t fall foul of these Regulations:

  1. As the legal duty-holder may be removed from the operation of the equipment, identify a ‘Person in Control’ and make sure that all parties know who this is and how to contact them. Although this is not a requirement it will simplify the management of the equipment and ensure that thorough examination reports are reviewed by the correct person and acted upon. The Person in Control should nominate a deputy to act in their absence.
  2. A Thorough Examiner is appointed by the equipment owner/employer (although normally through an insurance broker) and, as such, they are a contractor, just like any other maintenance company. A service-level agreement can therefore be established with the Thorough Examiner, whereby they are required to arrange inspections in advance, to turn off a lift, or contact the Person in Control in the event of existing, or imminent danger, and provide the written thorough examination report for a specified party within a set time period. This keeps you in control.
  3. Make sure the thorough examination is confirmed in advance. The employer must ensure the examination takes place before the previous one expires and should not automatically rely on the Thorough Examiner to attend on schedule. If, for any reason, the thorough examination does not take place, lifts should be taken out of service until the examination can be completed.
  4. Have your maintenance contractor in attendance. They know the equipment better than anyone and can ensure full access is provided for the Thorough Examiner (again, the employer’s duty) and will be able to ensure that all relevant documentation is available. The maintenance contractor may be able to address minor defects on the day of the examination, or, in worst cases, take the equipment out of service.
  5. If a defect posing existing or imminent danger is identified, make sure the lift is turned off. Ensure clear instructions are provided for all parties and support this with signage in the lift motor room and written instructions to other on-site staff who may receive a ‘notice of serious defect’ from the Thorough Examiner. Ensure a notice is placed on the equipment so it is not turned back on until the defect has been remedied. SAFed, which represents the UK independent engineering inspection and certification industry, states that if a danger to persons is identified during an examination their members will turn lifts off only if it is written into their contract, or given written authority.5
  6. When received, read the thorough examination report carefully. Currently, there is no industry standard for the presentation of a thorough examination report, although they must comply with Schedule 1 of LOLER 98. Each company uses its own format, which you must ensure you understand fully. LOLER 98 requires that Thorough Examiners indicate by when defects must be fixed. Specific timescales are used infrequently, with greater reliance on a grading system (A, B, C), which can be unclear. If dates are not provided, it is advisable to address defects as soon as reasonably practicable and resolve them no later than the next thorough examination. If necessary, contact the Thorough Examiner for clarification — their details will be on the examination report.
  7. Maintain an auditable maintenance record. You must be able to provide evidence that the works required by a thorough examination report have been completed. Instruct your maintenance contractor to provide clear records of the work undertaken. There is no requirement for you to do so, but if a defect posing existing or imminent danger was identified, providing evidence for the Thorough Examiner that it has been remedied can be of value.

There are a couple of other common pitfalls to watch out for. If a Thorough Examiner is unable to complete an inspection — perhaps because of lack of access, documentation was missing, or a defect was found that meant the inspection had to be aborted — they will normally issue a report stating that the equipment was not available for inspection. This report can look very similar to a full examination report, so make sure you don’t confuse the two.

Further reports, or tests may be required by the Thorough Examiner, which they will list on their report, although often in the recommendations section. These need to be completed by the next inspection and records made available to the Thorough Examiner — otherwise they will not be able to complete the next examination.

So, our building manager can now relax when she takes her next holiday, assured that if another defect occurs the right action will be taken and the people using the building can be confident that the lifts are safe. But wouldn’t it have been better for everyone if the examiner, who identified the defect that posed a danger to people using the lift, took notice of their duty of care and, as any competent practitioner would do, put the safety of others first and just turned the lift off?      

1     CIBSE (2010): Transportation Systems in Buildings (Guide D) — Section 13, Table 13.1
2    Stated as an estimate during informal discussion with enforcement officers from Westminster City Council to the Managing Agents Property Health and Safety Forum
3    The HSE enforcement notice register shows at least four notices issued between June 2012 and June 2013 for a breach of reg.9 of LOLER 98, which specifically references passenger lifts
4    It is not a requirement that lifts are insured specifically; however, failure to carry out inspection or maintenance may affect any claim relating to that equipment
5    Confirmed in dialogue between the Safety Assessment Federation (SAFed) and the Managing Agents Property Health and Safety Forum
6    BS EN 81:80 2003 Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts — Existing lifts. Part 80: Rules for the improvement of safety of existing passenger and goods passenger lifts

Adam Gilbert is a health and safety manager at Knight Frank.

The Safety Conversation Podcast: Listen now!

The Safety Conversation with SHP (previously the Safety and Health Podcast) aims to bring you the latest news, insights and legislation updates in the form of interviews, discussions and panel debates from leading figures within the profession.

Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today!

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments