7 Sep 2011

Lift company accused of breaking safety policies

7:09 pm on 7 September 2011

A senior lift inspector says the company that a technician crushed to death worked for broke its own safety policies.

The accusation comes after the Southland coroner released his findings into how David Shaw died trying to fix a frozen lift brake at the Fonterra milk processing factory in Edendale in 2009.

David Crerar held an inquest in April this year and his findings have been released on Wednesday.

Mr Crerar found Mr Shaw caused his own accidental death, but said the industry should consider reviewing the way technicians are routinely sent to jobs on their own.

Ralph Abercrombie, a lift inspector with more than 50 years' experience, says Mr Shaw should have had a colleague from his employer, Otis Elevator Company, to raise the alarm.

Mr Abercrombie says it has always been the company's policy to have two people on site at all times.

Another inspector, Bob Johnston, says the accident shows the consequences of a growing practice of single-man installation.

The Otis Elevator Company would not comment on Wednesday.

Coroner's findings

Coroner David Crerar says the elevator industry needs to learn from the death

He agreed with evidence presented that David Shaw was an experienced engineer who caused his own death when he freed the frozen lift with a hammer.

Mr Shaw had climbed over the lift's guard rail and disconnected the power to the safety systems.

However, Mr Crerar said other factors contributed, which the industry will learn from. The guard rail may heighten the risk to maintenance workers and the growing practice of allowing technicians to work alone might have to be reviewed.