A lift company has been ordered to pay £100,000 in fines and costs after terrified tourists were left with broken legs and ankles when a Tower Bridge lift fell several metres into a service pit because a vital mechanism failed.
Four people sustained bone fractures in the incident at the popular London landmark on 11 May 2009. A further six were treated for shock as walking wounded.
The lift car they were travelling in was ascending to the Tower Bridge Exhibition when it suddenly fell down the shaft from a distance of approximately three metres.
The company responsible for maintaining and servicing the lift, Temple Lifts Ltd, was sentenced today (6 March) following a complex technical investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), supported by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL). It identified failures linked to the maintenance of two refurbished lifts at Tower Bridge.
Southwark Crown Court heard that ten people, including one agency worker serving as a lift operator, were in the lift when it fell. The other passengers, all tourists, included an elderly couple and a young family.
The car ended up in a pit below the ground floor lift entrance after a counterweight mechanism failed.
The HSE investigation revealed that there had been a number of historic component failures in the counterweight mechanism on two separate lifts at the attraction prior to the catastrophic failure. However, these components had simply been replaced without a proper review and investigation as to why they were failing early.
HSE concluded that the uncontrolled fall could have been avoided had more in-depth analysis occurred, and that the fact this had not happened was indicative of wider failings.
Temple Lifts Ltd, of Baring Lane, London, SE12, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after pleading guilty to two charges covered by Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
After sentencing HSE Inspector Michael La Rose said:
“This was a truly disturbing incident that affected a number of people and that could have resulted in even greater injuries.
“It is vital that lifts are properly maintained, and that urgent action is taken if any possible issues or concerns are identified. There were warning signs here that were seemingly overlooked, and missed opportunities to properly rectify recurring faults.
“Temple Lifts could and should have done more to ensure the lift was properly maintained, and there were clear failings in this regard.”
Notes to Editors
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
- Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”