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Stately home operator lift defect oversight led to butler’s death

A preservation trust that runs one of Britain’s historic stately homes was hit with a £266,000 fine after its failure to rectify defects in a luggage lift led directly to the death of a domestic servant.

Stately home operator lift defect oversight led to butler’s death

Arthur Mellar, who was a butler at Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire, was crushed to death by the lift on 12 July 2014 after it descended on him while he was attempting to free a piece of luggage that had become stuck. He was trapped between the lift cage and the banister of the stairwell, which houses the lift. Mellar died in hospital hours later after sustaining severe injuries.

Peterborough Crown Court heard yesterday that the luggage lift was being used to carry guests’ bags from the ground floor to the second floor in the private area of Burghley House when one of the bags became jammed, forcing the lift to stop.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Burghley House Preservation Trust, which operators the stately home, had not carried out an assessment of the lift. Had it done so, it would have identified the necessity of a thorough examination and test.

The HSE also found that no competent lift engineer had ever inspected the lift. An engineer would have spotted the defects, including a lack of a slack rope detector. The court heard that the device was standard in the industry back in late 1950s and early 1960s when the lift was first used and would have prevented the accident from occurring.

Burghley House Preservation Trust, whose registered office is 61 St Martins, Stamford, Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a breach of s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was fined £266,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,863.


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton was previously acting editor of IOSH Magazine. Before that he was editor of SHP and he has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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