Death of Five Year Old Girl

Two companies have been fined following the death of a five year old girl, the young girl had been trapped in a lift inside of her own home in Weymouth.

In 2009 the young victims family had moved into the property, of which Synergy Housing Limited, along with Aster Group were the owners of. Bournemouth Crown Court heard that the property was fitted with an internal lift which was used by the girl’s brother as he suffers from a degenerative neurological condition leaving him in a wheelchair.

The young girl had used the lift to go upstairs and get her brother’s phone. She had put her head through a hole in the vision panel and as the lift moved up, her head was trapped between the lift and the ceiling of the ground floor. On the 13th August 2015, the 5 year old girl died from her injuries later that day.

Aster Property Limited had arranged a contract on behalf of Synergy Housing Limited with Orona limited to assure that the lifts were maintained and repaired. Synergy Housing Limited had an agreement with Orona Limited for the maintenance and repair of lifts, in which the lift at the proeprty of the victims family was included in. Aster Property Limited was another company from the Aster Group that Synergy Housing had an agreement with in regards to maintenance and repair of lifts.

In early 2013, one of the Perspex vision panels in the lift became damaged, which was not replaced or fixed. An engineer from Orona later visited the property to examine the lift in May of 2015, he noted that the vision panel was damaged, just 3 months before the horrific accident occurred.

Three companies had been held accountable as there had been a catalogue of failures found during an investigation undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive. The primary responsibility for the safety of the of lift in the property was the landlord, Synergy Housing, whereas Aster Property had the duty to arrange the lift maintenance issues; and the appropriate lift maintenance and repair work responsibility fell with Orona.

A fine of one million pounds and an order to pay costs of £ 40,000  was settled after Synergy Housing Limited of Link House, West Street, Poole pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974.

Under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work 1974 the Orona Limited of Europa View, Sheffield Buisness Park pleaded guilty and was fined £ 533,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £ 40,000.

Inspector Leo Diez from the HSE said ” These companies failed in their duties to put systems in place to ensure the lift in the family home was kept safe- more could have been done by Synergy, Aster and Orona. As a result of their negligence, a wholly avoidable tragedy, under horrific circumstances, has occurred where a fiver year old child has lost her life and a family have been left utterly devastated at the loss of their little girl. Companies should know HSE will not hesitate to take the appropriate enforcement action against those who flout health and safety law”

Diez then continued in saying ” Safety-critical aspect of the use and maintenance of the lift were also missed. From December  2013 until 12th of May 2015, the lift was not inspected at all- even though safety critical problems had previously been identified they were not rectified. In 2015, when the call-out report contained a warning, there was still a failure to act. Those breaches went unchecked over a long period of time during which the lift became more dangerous for the family to use.”

During the investigation, the findings included;

  • Tenants were not provided with safety critical information concerning the operation of the lift;
  • No risk assessment was carried out following the change of lift user when the Brown family moved in;
  • Concerns raised during service inspections were not addressed including:
    • The Perspex vision panel had been damaged for up to 18 months prior to the incident. On 12 May 2015, an Orona engineer completed a service inspection and, in his report, wrote “Routine service visit – Glass in door smashed!” but this was not fixed or replaced;
    • Problems with the emergency lowering and lack of emergency hand winding wheel during the whole of the Brown family’s tenancy, and which was shown in the documentation from at least January 2011;
    • The key switch used to control operation of the lift had been modified from factory installation to allow removal of the key in any position. Because the switch was in the “on” position with the key removed, it could be operated by anyone at any time.
  • Concerns raised by Alexys’ brother’s health workers were not taken seriously enough;
  • According to HSE guidance, lifts carrying people should be inspected every six months but, in this case, the lift was serviced only four times between 2009 and 2015 and was not thoroughly examined since 2012.

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