Fine and compensation over service lift fatality

Tuesday, 12 May, 2009

SafeWork SA prosecuted Mitol after investigating the death of a maintenance employee at the St Paul’s Function Centre in Adelaide in 2006, who was fatally crushed as he tried to enter a moving service lift.

Mitol received its penalty after pleading guilty to Section 19(1) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to ensure an employee was safe, failing to provide plant in a safe condition and failing to provide a safe system of work and adequate instruction.

The court heard that investigators found the lift-car doors had been removed; the ‘safety apron’ to cover the gap between the lift and the landing door was missing; the safety circuits preventing operation with the doors open had been bypassed; the lift had not been professionally serviced or inspected for years; and people were allowed to ride in the lift.

SafeWork SA inspectors found a number of parts from the lift on the floor of the lift control room later, with Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke noting the employers “had no idea the lift had been used as a people mover, let alone that every safety precaution … had been bypassed”.

Magistrate Lieschke fined Mitol $56,000, having reduced the penalty by 20% for its guilty plea, contrition and cooperation, and ordered the company to pay the two sons of the deceased $10,000 each in compensation. The lift has not been used since and the business itself closed in 2008.

“This is a tragic example of what happens when shortcuts are taken and safety is ignored as a priority,” says SafeWork SA Executive Director Michele Patterson. “Under the law, employers cannot delegate away their safety responsibilities, let alone ignore them until time and circumstance allow.”

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