Care Home Management

The Care Home Decision Makers’ Magazine

Insight & Analysis

Guidance for care homes on the use of lift door unlocking keys

By Nick Mellor, MD of the Lift and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA) 

There have been several serious accidents, and at least one fatality, over the past few years involving opening the landing doors on lifts and lifting platforms. All of these particular incidents were caused by the unauthorised use of ‘unlocking’ keys for lifts and lifting platforms by untrained people. Cases have involved untrained staff opening the landing doors when the lift car or platform is away from the floor – which makes it highly dangerous and in some cases with users falling into the lift well. 

What are lift access and release keys?
Passenger lifts and vertical lifting platforms are typically provided with unlocking keys which allow the lift or lifting platform landing door to be opened; either as part of releasing trapped passengers or during maintenance or inspection work.  In many cases, if the lift or lifting platform has become stuck and users are trapped inside, untrained staff have used these keys (or other devices) to open the doors.

 The owner or manager of the lift is responsible for the key. Other key points are:

  • It is essential that the door release keys are held somewhere securely by the building managers or owners. This will help to prevent any unauthorised interference or tampering with the lifts
  • Unlocking keys should only ever be handed over to suitably trained and competent persons.

When should you use the keys?

In exceptional cases only,

  • The keys should never be required when the lift is operating normally 
  • If they are being used regularly then something is wrong and the maintenance company should be contacted.

Keep your business compliant with HSE regulations on unlocking keys

  1. Allocate the ownership of the unlocking keys to designated responsible persons who will control their access.
  2. Release of trapped passengers should usually be agreed with your maintenance provider as part of your maintenance agreement. If you assess that you need your own staff to be able to carry out release procedures, they must be adequately trained and assessed to be competent to carry this out 
  3. Any staff trained to carry out release procedures should be assessed as being competent, preferably on an annual basis. They should understand that their training and competent is limited to the lift/ lifting platform they have been trained on 
  4. Never allow anyone without training to access the keys 
  5. Keep the keys in a secure place and use a signing in and out process to keep track of their whereabouts 
  6. Encourage staff to report unauthorised use of keys to their line manager or the building manager 
  7. Make sure your unlocking key carries a warning label 
  8. Ask your lift maintenance company to investigate any problem with lift/ lifting platform operation.



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