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Lift accident at the UG caused by badly adjusted brake

22 March 2019

The independent technical investigation carried out into the lift accident at University of Groningen (UG) has now been completed. On 17 January 2019, a lift unintentionally hit the floor of the basement in a Faculty building at Antonius Deusinglaan 1. At the time, the lift was carrying 14 staff members and students from the Pharmacy department at the UG. The overall conclusion of an independent investigation bureau is that the lift’s brake had not been properly adjusted. The Board of the UG saw this as reason to have all of the lifts in Antonius Deusinglaan 1 re-serviced and to review the maintenance procedures for the lifts in all buildings.

The incident

Fourteen researchers and students got into the lift in question on the 1st floor of the Antonius Deusinglaan building to travel to the 9th floor. As the passengers were about to vacate the lift on the 9th floor, the lift doors closed of their own accord. The lift started to move and dropped to the 6th. The emergency brake came into operation and the lift came to halt between the 6th and the 5th floors, but the controls failed and the group was trapped inside.

Several members of staff and an engineer came to help. After carrying out all the steps in the protocol designed to secure access to the lift, after an hour, the lift started moving again uncontrollably. It could not be stopped. After a high-speed drop, the lift came to an abrupt halt on the hydraulic buffer in the basement.


After conducting tests, the investigation bureau concluded that the fall had been caused by a badly adjusted brake combined with an improper balance weight and almost full capacity (that is 16 people). The tests showed that this does not happen if the brake is properly adjusted and the balance is corrected (weight of lift car versus counterweight).

The motor of the lift was replaced in May 2018. The lift then passed its inspection, but the inspection certificate stated that the brake was in need of maintenance. This maintenance was carried out by the maintenance company with which the UG had a contract in 2018 during a regular service moments.

Tighten up

Jouke de Vries, President of the Board of the University: ‘The accident was a very frightening experience for the staff and students trapped inside the lift. It has had a huge impact on them. The findings of this investigation show that the fault in the brake was not spotted despite periodical maintenance and regular inspections. We saw this as a reason to review the maintenance procedures for all of our lifts and tighten them up where necessary. We also ordered new inspections of all of the 11 lifts in Antonius Deusinglaan 1 this month. In addition, we will pay more attention to registering defects, and to dealing with incidents in cooperative buildings.’

Last modified:12 March 2020 9.41 p.m.
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