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Are You Competent With Lift Jobs, or Winging It?


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The Govt have just bought out a whole new raft of General Risk Assessment guidance, including one on lift, escalator and moving walkway incidents

The guidance recognises that many F&RS have taken measures to reduce the number of such incidents attended, but points out he detrimental effect that might have on competences 

I always grumbled about the poor training the LFB gave to their front line staff. Lift incidents were seen as low risk, bread & butter jobs which frankly were a pain in the neck. This was underlined when the two pump PDA was reduced to one many years ago. Training largely involved passing down knowledge (& bad practices) from one generation of Firefighters to the next and structured learning was only really offered to specialist heavy rescue crews. This was a few years back so training may have improved by now

So what training does your employer offer?

The guidance published this week talks about safety officers and command and control - implying 1 pump with 4 riders may not be sufficient.

So what PDA does your firm send?

Here's the bit from the guidance relating to competence. Any comments?

Competence and Training

When formulating a competence and training strategy, Fire and Rescue Services should consider the following points:

  • To enable a fire and rescue service specific risk assessment of this incident type, fire and rescue services must ensure those tasked with carrying out this assessment and developing procedures are competent
  • Fire and Rescue Services must ensure their personnel are adequately trained to deal with hazards and risks associated with lifts and escalators
  • The level and nature of training undertaken should be shaped by an informed training needs analysis that takes account of fire and rescue service guidance on the competency framework, national occupational standards and any individual training needs
  • Training and development programmes should:

– follow the principles set out in national guidance documents

– should generally be structured so that they move from simple to more complex tasks and from lower to higher levels of risk

– will typically cover standard operational procedures as well as ensuring knowledge and understanding of equipment and the associated skills that will be required to use it; and

– should consider the need for appropriate levels of assessment and provide for continuous professional development to ensure maintenance of skills and to update personnel whenever there are changes to procedure, equipment, etc

– should also involve personnel involved in other processes that support the emergency response such as planners devising procedures and people procuring equipment.

• Specific training requirements for incidents involving lifts and escalators will include the standard operating procedure and the equipment to be used

• Training outcomes should be evaluated to ensure that the training provided is effective, current and it meets defined operational needs as determined by the Fire and Rescue Service’s integrated risk management plan.

Fire and Rescue Services must ensure that their personnel are provided with adequate initial training to identify the hazards and risks and procedures necessary to deal with incidents involving lifts escalators and moving walkways.

Arrangements should also be in place to ensure these skills are maintained through appropriate training and ensure personnel are informed of any changes to procedure or technological change.

Consideration should also be given to establishing and maintaining contact with lift and escalator equipment suppliers or trade associations so that new initiatives within the industry can be identified and training interventions can be kept current.

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It used to be a case of 1.1d visits messy when I was in charge of a watch.  I would ensure we all knew how each lift we had worked and how we got into the Motor room and use the Equipment.  That said I think we only had around 10 high rises on our patch and rarely if ever went to a low rise lift job. 

I don’t really know what the crews get these days to be honest but my guess would be a very generic e-learning package and bobs your uncle.  

In essence I think we did and may still do wing it mate 

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To throw another couple of variables into the debate, a lot of the lift companies would prefer that we don't attend lift jobs at all, being of the opinion that we cause more damage. Can you imagine that, the fire brigade wrecking the joint.😂

The other thing is like everything else technology has moved on and many lifts no longer have motor rooms. The control panel is generally beside the door on the top floor and once you gain access, its a case of switch off A, press button B etc. Even more than 10 years ago, we'd come across quite a few of this type, when we were doing a 1.1d visit to a major new shopping centre and looking at the lifts being commissioned. Asking the engineers to show us how to do this from the control panel, they told us that particular model of lift didn't have anything like that and that emergency releases were done remotely from their control centre. Failing that someone would be dispatched and the laptop connected!

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We have a lifts SOP as well as training packages which form part of our MoC.

Any watch worth its salt will at least try to familiarise themselves with the lifts within their local area, of which we have 1000s across the service, including a Paternoster Lift  😬

North West Fire Control will challenge any persons marooned in lift and we will only attend if the person in the lift is in distress (They usually are). If we attend any Hydraulic Lift and the pressure gauge reads zero, we do not touch it until an engineer arrives. 

We have lift keys (Lunar Keys) for the majority of lifts and I have only ever damaged one which was stuck between floors of the local maternity unit with a female in labour and with no medical equipment. I never got her name and was hoping she would call the child Amber as we were "Amber Watch" at the time 🤣


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To be honest we got very little input in training, I guess mainly because without a working rig of a lift it’s very difficult to train practical people on how to rescue people shut in lifts, especially given there are so many different types out there. I guess that’s why training is mainly left to watches who can do the training operationally.

We had some input from our local borough on the lifts installed in (allegedly) 95% of their social housing blocks: how to make them safe, the display on the control unity, moving the lift etc. They told us themselves that isolating the power in the shaft itself is not totally safe and should actually be done in the lift room. That’s been passed down and we stick to that principle where possible.


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LFB has basic lift safety and an outline of the different types of lift commonly found in the recruits course. FRU crews have enhanced training with guild of lift engineers (or something along those lines) which (supposedly) allows us to safely operate within the shaft, should we attend a trapped in machinery call rather a than a simple shut in lift.

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Funnily enough had this conversation today at a lift job. Played with the idea if we start getting the holmatro off to release anyone feeling “unwell” the brigade might actually give us some formal training haha 

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More on why UKFRS should be training staff in lift rescues in a formal and recorded manner, rather than this ad hoc "Go and see Dave, he has 25 years in and will tell you everything you need to know" approach. 

I would be intrigued to hear the FBU's view on this. Why not cut and paste the stuff below and ask you FBH H&S Rep if your employer is compliant? I doubt it


The Law

Under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) there is a duty to provide trained staff able to release people who are shut in a lift.

It also states that ………… 'staff must be properly trained before being authorised to carry out lift releases'.*

Alternatively, they can provide a lift release service through a lift engineering or similar company


* Lift owners will have provided adequate training to comply with LOLER if training is given in accordance with BS 7255

Pertinent clauses of that Standard are given below:

  • Clause 4.1.3: All persons who are authorised to carry out safe release of trapped passengers should receive specific training.
  • Clause 4.1.4: The competency of those trained should be documented and assessed annually. The competencies achieved and the type of equipment the training was carried out should be documented.
  • Clauses 4.8 and sub clauses: This deals with general procedures for the safe release procedures.



If this is what lift owners must do when training their staff to release people from lifts, how can UKF&S Management not be doing at least the same? For example, annual lift releases competence assessments.

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I would imagine they, LFB, at least, are aware of that regulation but feel that as the fire brigade are used as the method of last resort to release people shut in a lift that the FRS act (2.11) over rides the LOLER regulations for the purpose of preserving life. 
The key difference  being a security team for example at a single site can reasonably be trained on the different types of lift within their work place. As fire crews we could attend any lift of any design in any building making an assessment on the latest model Schindler worthless when you are then confronted with a vintage hundred year old lift in a listed building. 

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Preserving life? A lift job? To be clear I am relating to someone stuck in a failed lift- not trapped in machinery - although technical competence needs to be maintained for both shouts

LOLER relates to lifting kit of a few kilos to a 1000+ tonne and is a primary piece of H&S legislation. The fire service is not exempt.

You are right, the need to understand a variety of lift designs does differentiate what the fire service may be required to do compared with an in house arrangement.  But surely this heightens the risk and makes competence more essential.

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I fully understand your points messy, and while they are correct I’m simply playing devils advocate. If no one came to let the person out eventually it would become an emergency.
I’m not privy to the inner legal workings on this it’s merely how I assume the brigade justifies its training and operational response towards bread and butter lift jobs. 
With my cynics head on, they would never ever be able to implement that training to all station staff and keep up the assessments. I can’t remember the exact wording in the policy but I’m sure it leans heavily on getting a grown up lift engineer to attend.

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What could possibly go wrong? 😉 We isolate the lift, release the brake and turn the handle? biggest risk is opening the landing doors and peering in to the darkness to see where the car is.  

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  • 1 month later...

How many services send just one pump to a lift release? We upped ours to 2 in line with the guidance five years ago and always send two which often feels like overkill but does provide a safe system of work and we often quickly release the 2nd pump quickly.

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