A GSL scissor lift dating from 1998 collapsed suddenly in Germany yesterday seriously injuring a man on the platform.
The man, 23, was working on the ceiling of a workshop in Ellwangen to the north of Aalen in Southern Germany. He fell around six metres to the ground, he was treated at the scene by the paramedics and sent to hospital with suspected spinal injuries.
Police are investigating the incident, but have told Vertikal.net that they have no clear evidence at this point, apart from the fact that witnesses heard a loud noise and that the scissor lift mechanism collapsed in on itself.
The unit was built by GSL (German Standard Lift) in 1998, 11 years ago a serious safety warning concerning weld defects and defective brakes, on some of the lifts built by GSL shocked the German access industry. The investigation is already focusing on how the retrofit work was carried out and perhaps the quality of those kits.
The warning stated that All S 88 and S 106 units built between January 1992 and March 1996 and all S 90, S 111, S 131 and S 151 units built between January 1992 and January 2002 may suffer from sub-standard weld quality which could result in the scissor packs breaking apart during usage.
The machine has apparently been well maintained, with all regular service inspections documented, with the next major test and maintenance not due until June. Due to the severity of the incident, the prosecutor has requested an independent expert be employed.
This investigation could draw important conclusions regarding the recall, retrofitting and removal from service of machines subject to serious safety issues. It should be noted that this particular machine may well have been properly modified and we may find that the structural failure was unrelated. However all too often safety retrofit kits sit on the shelf for months, and often years until they are completely forgotten.
German Standard Lift flourished in the 1990s introducing machine after machine, many incorporating highly advanced and innovative ideas. The company preached quality from its four coat paint/treatment process to its electrical components and systems. All this and keen prices made the GSL products highly popular, particularly in its home market. Meanwhile competitors stood by and scratched their heads over how a small company could introduce so many new models so quickly, manage and produce such a mind numbing product range and all at a keen price.
As usual whenever it looks like someone has found a magical formula, time shows that the whole thing was an illusion, one that involves compromises or short cuts to keep the illusion going.
Dirk Begemann the man and personality behind GSL kept the illusion running for around 10 years getting bigger and bolder towards the end. When the end came it was fast and deep and had a traumatic effect on a lot of individuals.
Sadly there is no magic. Lets hope that the injured young man makes a full recovery and that the investigation is full and thorough so that we may learn some lessons. This is an area where associations such as IPAF can make a real difference.