The family of a man killed while working in a Wellington lift shaft is echoing calls to review safety protocols that prevent elevators from moving while technicians are working.
E tu, union has started working with lift companies to improve the rules around lift safety after a report into the death of lift engineer Brendon Scheib found the industry’s voluntary code of practice was inadequate.
Scheib was killed on January 14 last year while working for Otis Elevator Company in a lift shaft in the T&G building, also known as the Harcourts building, in Wellington.
The 54-year-old lift technician from Newlands, who had more than 27 years experience, was killed when an elevator descended onto him..
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E tu is pushing Worksafe to improve safety and well-being on the job.
About 60 people a year die in New Zealand from work-related accidents every year.
Scheib’s wife, Deb Scheib, supported the union’s efforts to improve rules around lift safety.
“The only thing I can do is work with the unions. They said we are not giving up the fight … [but] it needs Worksafe, the unions, and the employers working together.”
A year after her husband’s death, Scheib’s application to take a private prosecution against Otis was rejected by the Wellington District Court, because her lawyer filed the papers two working days too late.
At the time, she said she felt let down.
On Friday, Scheib said she could not take further legal action against the company, so would advocate for change through the unions.
“I didn’t want them (Otis) to be prosecuted for the sake of being prosecuted, I did it for the sole purpose to highlight the inadequacies in the industry and to get change.
“The thing is, they lose an employee who they can replace, we’ve lost a husband and a father, and our world changed from that very point on. It’s devastating.
“From that day on, everything we’d planned to do together – it just stopped. I didn’t know how to live the next day. I didn’t know how to breathe,” Scheib said.
“We have family gatherings and he’s not there. Our lives will never be complete.”
E tu senior national industrial officer Paul Tolich said Worksafe needed to act quickly to put in place an enforceable code to keep lift workers safe.
“The price of a safe workplace is eternal vigilance.
“The best way to remember Brendon is to put this right … everyone has the right to return home at the end of their working day, in one piece, to their families.”
Worksafe’s official report into Scheib’s death found deficiencies in safety compared with best practice internationally.
This related to the type of switch used in lifts as well as back-up switches to reduce the risk of accidents.
E tu wants the industry to review safety switch practices as well as restrict the number of jobs technicians are required to do on their own.
A WorkSafe spokesman said submissions from the industry would require detailed analysis to ensure new safety measures would be embraced by the industry.
An Otis spokesman said in a statement: “Otis is participating in this process with Worksafe.”
However, he did not respond to questions about what changes, if any, had been made by the company to prevent a similar incident.
Scheib’s family marked International Workers Memorial Day on Friday by laying flowers on a memorial plaque on the Wellington waterfront.