Vertical lifting platforms or lifts for people with impaired mobility - potential falls from height risks to employees and members of the public from over-riding door locking safety devices

Health and Safety Executive - Safety alert

Department Name:
Operational Strategy Division - Public Services

Bulletin No:
OPSTD 2-2012

Issue Date:
18 June 2012

Target Audience:
Health and social care providers, NHS Trusts / Boards, hospitals, public buildings, schools, care homes, other Catering and Hospitality, Schools and education, Entertainment and Leisure, Retail, Services, Transport

Key Issues:
Potential danger from inappropriate use of emergency over-ride devices at the doors of lifting platforms intended for use by people with impaired mobility. Potential for access to be gained to lift well (shaft) when lifting platform/ lift car is at different level. Action required to ensure safe procedures are in place to prevent misuse of landing door unlocking keys except in an emergency situation where access to the lift well is required.


This Safety Notice is aimed at organisations with vertical lifting platforms for people with impaired mobility, or passenger lifts, installed at their premises.

The Safety Notice informs organisations of the risks from over-riding safety devices at landing doors designed to prevent access to lifting platform / lift wells or shafts.

Safety devices are designed to prevent doors from opening when the lifting platform / lift car is not at the correct position at a landing. Opening the doors when the platform / car is not at the landing presents a significant risk of falling from height.


HSE is aware of two incidents where emergency landing door keys have been used to override the safety devices designed to prevent opening of landing doors when the platform / lift car is not at the correct landing.

Vertical lifting platforms, like traditional passenger lifts, provide access between floors. Usually they only operate over two to three floors and are hydraulically, screw and nut or electrically operated. They rely on hold to run operation and operate at slower speeds.

In both incidents the employees of organisations providing care to members of the public (non-employees) were allowed to use emergency lock release keys to open doors on upper landings during normal usage. The use of the key in this way allowed continued operation of the equipment under fault conditions. The emergency keys are intended to allow emergency access to the lifting platform in the event of people becoming trapped and should be under strict control.

As a result of inappropriate use of the emergency unlocking key during daily use of the lifting platform, access was gained to the lift well when the lifting platform was not at the same floor level. This resulted in people accessing the open lift well and falling.

At one of the premises a resident died as a result of their injuries, and an employee was seriously injured.

Action required:

Organisations which have such vertical lifting platforms or lifts installed should review their procedures to ensure that emergency door release devices are not routinely operated during non-emergency situations. Emergency unlocking should be undertaken only in exceptional circumstances and by suitably trained and authorised people.

Safe working procedures and arrangements should be in place setting out what to do in the event of an emergency or failure. For example, how to deal with trapped people and the arrangements for repairing faults.

All lifts and lifting platforms must be inspected, serviced and maintained. Where the lift is used by work purposes, it must be thoroughly examined by a competent person. See link: Passenger lifts and escalators

Relevant legal documents:

  • Health and safety at Work Etc. Act 1974
  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998


British Standards

  • BS EN 81-1:1998 +A3 2009 Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts - Part 1: Electric lifts
  • BS EN 81-2:1998 +A3 2009 Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts - Part 1: Hydraulic lifts
  • BS EN 81-41:2010 Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts - Special lifts for the transport of persons and goods Part 41: Vertical lifting platforms intended for use by persons with impaired mobility

HSE Publications

INDG 339 Thorough examination and testing of lifts - Simple guidance for lift owners

Further information

For further enquiries about the design or safety devices associated with elevating lifting platforms, please contact:

Lift and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA)
Tel - 020 7935 3013

General note:

Please share this information with a colleague who may have this Product / Equipment or operate this type of system/process.

Is this page useful?