Inquest begins into death of health and safety expert who fell down lift shaft in Warwick

James Merritt NNL-170724-150934005
James Merritt NNL-170724-150934005

An award-winning health and safety expert died when he plunged 30ft down a lift shaft he was inspecting in Warwick, an inquest has heard.

James Merritt, 39, from Hampton Magna, tumbled down the empty shaft of a passenger lift while working at a three-storey building.

The dad-of-two was inspecting three lifts, two passenger and one freight, at Telent Technologies Services in Warwick when he died on October 11 last year.

Rescue teams dashed to the industrial park in Warwick but Mr Merritt - who won a national Health and Safety award in 2014 - was pronounced dead at the scene.

An inquest heard Mr Merritt had suffered major head injuries.

Delroy Henry, Assistant Coroner for Warwickshire, said: “He arrived a little after 8am to begin his work - he interacted with a maintenance worker.

“He unfortunately was discovered at the bottom of the lift pit where the passenger doors operate just before 1.30pm.

“He suffered major trauma to his head and later died at the scene.”

The inquest heard Mr Merritt was one of the most highly qualified safety experts at Zurich Engineering, who employed him to carry out risk assessments on businesses.

Dominic Dawson, chief engineer for Zurich Engineering, said: “We carry out examinations of lifting equipment, pressure systems, all kinds of equipment and statutory examinations so people understand their equipment is safe - our examinations are legal requirements.

“James commenced his employment in June 2016, he worked in a similar role as an engineer surveyor before.

“He had a Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, he was part of the Engineering Council, he was an Incorporated Engineer.

“This is a very experienced engineer level.

“He had been an engineer for over 20 years - ten as a surveyor.

“In 2014 James was fortunate to receive an award.”

Describing the training Mr Merritt undertook to reach his position, Mr Dawson added: “He would take certain health and safety exams over that period of time.

“He got 92 per cent on his final exam, which is very, very high - figures are usually around the 80 per cent mark.

“His job could include working in confined spaces and heights.”

Speaking after he was crowned Engineer Surveyor of the Year in 2014, Mr Merritt said: “Identifying defects that could become a danger to people is something I will never tire of.”

James’ tearful wife Kimberley, mum to six-year-old Oliver and two-year-old Evelyn, attended the inquest at Warwickshire Coroner’s Court.

The five-day hearing continues.