Hefty fine and reparation over Speights Brewery elevator death
Kone Elevators Limited has been fined $50,000 and ordered to pay a further $91,800 in reparation and to cover economic loss, after a contractor was killed when the Speights Brewery lift car he was working in fell about 16 metres.
Ralph Ashenhurst, who was a self-employed engineering contractor, died in hospital two days after the March 31 2014 incident.
Mr Ashenhurst was de-commissioning a small passenger lift when it plunged to the ground. To allow the work to be undertaken a ‘Tirak hoist’ had been installed - and its steel wire suspension cable failed.
A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found that the mounting of the hoist to the lift car had disabled the lift’s safety gear, which should have kicked in when the lift fell at speed.
Kone also failed to require contractors to comply with its own standard pre-work safety inspections. Kone did not supply any installation documentation or checklist with the hoist and the operation of its safety gear was not checked.
Kone pleaded guilty to one charge under sections 18(1)(b) and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act and was sentenced yesterday in the Dunedin District Court. Section 18 requires that a principal must take all practicable steps to ensure that no contractor is harmed while doing work that they were engaged to do.
WorkSafe’s chief inspector, Keith Stewart, says neither WorkSafe nor Kone could establish exactly why the steel cable broke.
“But no matter why the cable failed, the lift’s safety gear failed and didn’t engage to stop the falling lift car. If proper safety checks had been done following the installation of the hoist they would have identified that the mounting of the hoist had disabled the lift’s safety gear.
“Kone should have ensured that its contractors had a proper safety system, which included all necessary safety checks of equipment. That would have included a check on the lift’s own safety gear – particularly after the hoist was installed.
“If you’re working in a dangerous environment safety checks are not optional. They’re there to save lives and in this case the lack of proper safety checks had tragic consequences,” says Keith Stewart.