Most lift engineers will set foot in a lift pit. In short, a lift pit is the basement of a lift found just below the ground floor. This space is a crucial component of the design when installing a lift, as it will consume the majority of force imposed by the lift. This force and the confined space of the pit means there are risks involved when installing or maintaining a lift, including the risk of falling into a lift pit from height. It is therefore imperative that lift engineers comply with safety procedures when working in a lift pit.
Entering and exiting the pit area
Extra care should always be taken when entering and leaving the pit area. One of the key safety measures is ensuring the lift isn’t operational and is at a safe height away from the pit. There should also be barriers around the landing door area to prevent persons from trying to enter the lift shaft. In 2016, a construction firm was sentenced after a worker fell into a pit* – upon investigation it came to light that barriers, which were previously there, had been removed. Barriers should always be used to prevent incidents and Work at Height Regulations should always be adhered to where there is a risk of injury from a fall.
Using a pit access ladder is commonplace when entering and exiting the pit area and in most cases the ladder is often permanently fixed, however other types of ladders can be used (retractable, foldable, moveable). The location, weight and height of the ladder should all be taken into account to ensure engineers can get on and off the ladder safely. Accidents can also occur due to improper use by the individual. Therefore, they should always maintain three points of contact with the ladder.
Lift pit as a confined space
If a lift pit has been identified as a confined space (following a risk assessment), there are additional risks that may present themselves, and if they do, action will need to be taken. These risks can include contamination by substances from an adjacent plant or from floors above the lift pit, and hydraulic accumulators that contain nitrogen at high pressure and gases from air conditioning equipment installed in lift areas. Certain controls will need to be undertaken should a risk become likely, such as monitoring the air, ventilation, and removal of engineers away from any contamination. While these risks will be assessed during a site survey, if there are any concerns by engineers, then they should be raised with their line manager.
The pit prop
When working with a mechanical restraint, such as a pit prop, there are procedures to follow to ensure a safe working environment. Pit props are used when working on a hydraulic system or when working for a duration longer than the time to install the pit prop. The key safety concern is ensuring the pit is properly secure in its base. In the event of a lift dropping down, the prop will take the load of the lift in a secure position to avoid incidents.
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