Schoolgirl Injured in Lift Shaft Fall

City of Edinburgh Council has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a school girl fell more than five metres down a lift shaft.

Morgan Seaton, who was 15 years old at the time of the accident, sustained three fractured vertebrae, bruising and a sprained wrist after she and three other pupils became stuck in a lift at the Liberton High School.

Ms Seaton called the school's office from her mobile phone and teachers quickly arrived and told the children to remain calm while they awaited rescue.

But instead of phoning the emergency services, teachers from the school decided to ask the janitor to fetch a lift key and attempt to free the students themselves.

After managing to open the lift's doors on the first floor, it was found that the bottom third of the cab could be seen through the opening.

The doors to the lift were then opened so that teachers could calm the children down, but it was then decided by the teachers that the pupils should be squeezed out of the opening and into the corridor.

One boy was helped out of the lift successfully, but when Ms Seaton attempted to follow suit she accidentally fell down the shaft and crashed to the ground five metres below.

It was at this point that the emergency services were notified and when firefighters arrived they found the lift had not been isolated and could have resumed moving at any point, with catastrophic consequences.

She had to take two weeks off school and spent several months in pain, disrupting her education and social life.

For failing to have contingency policies in place and neglecting to train teachers in how to deal with broken lifts, the HSE took the school's operator City of Edinburgh Council to court.

It pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £8,000.

After the verdict was handed down, HSE inspector Hazel Dobb said, "A 15-year-old girl was seriously injured in an incident that was wholly preventable. As a result she spent several months in pain.

"The teachers were well intentioned in their attempts to help, but had they received suitable information and guidance on how to deal with trapped people in lifts they would have called for help and not put pupils at such risk of injury."

By Chris Stevenson