September 12, 2017

Terrible accident in Spanish Hospital Highlights Need for Focus on Lift Safety

The death of a new mum in a Spanish hospital has underlined the need for safe practices and procedures when using elevators.

Just hours after delivering her third child by caesarean section in Valme Hospital in Seville, 25-year-old Rocío Cortés Núñez was crushed when the elevator began to move before the trolley she was on was fully inside.

Investigators are working on the theory that the lift moved because of a mechanical or electronic failure with the automatically controlled door, although regional health minister Marina Alvarez has said the lift had passed safety tests earlier in the month and called it a “rapid, unusual and tragic” accident.

Tragically, Ms.Núñez was fatally crushed in the accident, with some reports saying her head was severed. However her new-born baby is reported to have been unharmed in the incident.

Focus on elevator safety – a good record

The Lift and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA) estimates there are 250,000 passenger and goods lifts in the UK, and each makes multiple trips each day.

Given the number of lifts in use the safety record is actually pretty good, with up-to-date figures from the Health & Safety Executive showing only four deaths caused by elevator accidents since 2002.

However, on the rare occasions accidents do happen it is often due to the negligence of the building manager or engineer, or issues with the lift itself as in the case mentioned above.

Despite these low figures, any injury or death is still one too many and highlights the need for proper maintenance and regular inspections to prevent terrible accidents from occurring.

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Employer responsibilities around lift safety

Employers need to ensure their lifts:

  • Are properly maintained and in a safe condition
  • Have a Thorough Examination at specified periods (every 12 months for a goods lift and six months for a passenger lift)
  • If the lift operates in unideal conditions, the frequency of inspections can be altered

A lift examination can be compared to an MOT on a car – it’s an independent check on the safety critical components of the lift machinery. Thorough Examinations are also required following substantial changes or damage to the lift.

The inspections must take place within the framework of these Health & Safety regulations:

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About the author

Leanne Spice

Leanne has nearly five years' experience in the field of environmental health, having previously worked in the public sector as an Environmental Health Technician enforcing legislation and licensing activities. Leanne holds both MCIEH and GradIOSH, and graduated from the University of the West of England with a BSc in Environmental Health.