Published on Australian Maritime Safety Authority (

1/2020—Fatal accidents caused by moving elevators on ships

This marine notice highlights shipowners, operators, masters and crews obligation to ensure safe working arrangements are in place for any work involving a ship’s elevator.

During 2018 and 2019, AMSA received notification of two separate accidents that involved crew members being trapped and crushed by a moving elevator. In both instances, the elevator moved while the crew members were working between the elevator casing and the cage, resulting in fatal crush injuries.

Incidents resulting in crush injuries caused by an elevator are not new, with a similar fatality investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) in 2007. In this instance, a crew member was crushed in the elevator while conducting repairs. Elevator related fatalities have also been reported on multiple ships in other parts of the world.

AMSA believes that such incidents are avoidable through the application of simple and effective risk controls.

Systemic failures related to fatal crushes in elevators on ships

Similar systematic failures have been identified in all of these fatal accidents. The following were considered to be some of the key safety issues:


An elevator shaft is a very hazardous environment in which to work. The potential dangers involve:

AMSA cannot stress enough the importance of conducting a proper risk assessment and implementing relevant procedures, which are applied in practice to ensure the safety of crew working on a ship’s elevator. 

AMSA also recommends planning for elevator maintenance or deferring elevator maintenance work until the vessel is in port and utilising a trained manufacturer’s technician. 

Effective risk assessment

AMSA’s Maritime Safety Awareness Bulletin issue 6 provides guidance on tools and methods that can be adopted to support risk identification and the implementation of risk controls.

Download Marine notice 1/2020—Fatal accidents caused by moving elevators on ships (PDF 197 KB) PDF196.25 KB

Mick Kinley 
Chief Executive Officer 
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
January 2020

GPO Box 2181 

Last updated: 21 April 2023