Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Council fined for lift shaft fall at Liberton High School

Liberton High School Pic: Lisa Summers Image copyright bbc
Image caption The Liberton High School pupil fell 15ft down a lift shaft at the school

A local authority has been fined £8,000 after a pupil fell down a lift shaft at an Edinburgh school following a failed rescue attempt.

Morgan Seaton, a fourth year Liberton High School pupil, was 15 at the time of the accident on 8 December 2011.

She dropped more than 5m (15ft) to the bottom of the shaft, suffering three fractured vertebrae, bruising to her back and a sprained wrist.

Edinburgh City Council plead guilty to a breach of health and safety at work.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court the council was charged with failing to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment who used the lift at Liberton High School and failing to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to employees in what to do if someone was trapped in a lift.

When four pupils became trapped in a lift between floors, members of staff went to their rescue, but their "well-intentioned efforts" resulted in one of the children, Miss Seaton, falling through the gap between the bottom of the lift and the floor level, into the lift shaft.

She spent two days in the Royal Infirmary and did not return to school for another two weeks.

The girl suffered pain in her back when sitting for long periods and this caused her difficulty when studying for her Standard Grade exams.

A teacher and janitor got the lift key and took the decision to help the trapped children.

Fiscal Depute, Emma Stewart, said: "They had not been trained in relation to what they should, or should not do in such a situation."

The floor of the lift was level with the shoulders of the staff standing on the first floor corridor.

The boy pupil told them he could get out with a "little assistance" and did so.

'Profound regret'

The fiscal said: "Morgan Seaton volunteered to be next and manoeuvred herself out of the lift on her stomach until she was suspended feet first and facing into the lift.

"One of the teachers stood behind Miss Seaton as she attempted to drop to the floor.

"However, as she did so, she fell through the gap at the bottom of the door opening into the shaft.

"In the absence of clear instructions not to attempt to effect a rescue themselves, it is conceivable that the teachers concerned thought they were acting in the best interests of the trapped pupils.

"Unfortunately, because they had not been trained to leave the pupils in the lift and await assistance from a lift engineer, they undertook to rescue them without taking vital safety measures such as isolating the lift's power supply or manually lowering the lift car to floor level."

Staff have now been told there must be no attempts made by untrained staff to free anyone trapped in a lift.

Peter Gray QC, appearing for the council, said it was a matter of profound regret that Miss Seaton had suffered serious injuries and it had no hesitation in accepting its responsibility for the failings which had culminated in the incident.

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