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Need a lift?

Nov 27, 2017
Virtually everyone in the UK moving industry, and further afield, will remember that day in 2014 when two young men died falling from a balcony in Kensington while trying to lift a sofa, over railings, into a flat. It was a tragedy that reflected badly on the whole moving industry.

The boss of the company certainly won’t forget as he was jailed for 14 months for corporate manslaughter.  His company was fined £1.2million and is no longer in business.  Sentencing, Judge Gerald Gordon said that on the day of the accident, there was a "shocking failure to consider the health and safety of employees and others”.  He added “Those who are wilfully blind to the risks despite warnings - as you were - have got to expect to go immediately to prison."  

Tough words, but few in the industry would disagree.  At the time, The Mover received a number of letters from moving companies calling the unfortunate lads ‘cowboys’, and worse.  But, when asked how a professional moving company would have handled it differently, none were able to give any helpful suggestions.  The truth is, most moving companies have handled big, heavy items through windows and over balconies in the past using little more than a ladder, webbing and muscle power.  It was just the way it was done.  

There is a better way, of course.  The proper way to do it is to use an external lift.  Trevor Woods from Britannia Sandersteads said that his company came to that conclusion around five years ago (before the Kensington incident). “We had a few jobs that all came up together that were from flats with no internal lifts,” he explained.  “We decided then that we should invest in an external elevator as it would be much safer for our employees and we wouldn’t need so many porters on the job.”  

Sometime later, and as the elevator wasn’t in constant use at Sandersteads, the company decided to hire it out within the trade. “Companies can hire the elevator by the hour, half day or day,” said Trevor. “We supply it with a fully trained operator who is also one of our senior foremen.  He’ll stay and help with the job during the period of hire.”    

Since then, Sandersteads has invested in a portable elevator designed for getting into tight spots. This can carry up to 200kg so will easily lift a four-seater sofa, and extends to the third floor. The big one can carry up to 400kgs and reaches 25 metres/82 feet or, in simple terms, that’s seven floors.  

Trevor said that using an elevator didn’t really cost much more as there was a significant saving on labour costs and time.  But money wasn’t the issue.  “Movers need to do the job properly. There’s no point in risking lives. If every moving company simply insists that the customer pay for an elevator if it’s needed, nobody will be tempted to cut corners.”  

The accident in 2014 brought the issue into clear focus.  With elevators available for hire in most parts of the country there really is no need for movers to take a risk.   

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