A BAR owner will be sentenced next year for health and safety breaches that resulted in an employee being crushed to death in a lift shaft.
Employees and managers regularly used a goods-only lift to move between floors at The Blu Bar in Tallaght, Dublin, despite signs above the lift doors prohibiting people transport.
Kay Baxter, a Health and Safety Authority inspector, said that a barmaid had seen TBC Bar Ltd company director James Lambert (45) using the lift after he had told her not to get into it.
This was about five months before Stephen Hampson (31) was killed.
Lambert, of Castlelawns, Tallaght, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to a health and safety breach which led to the death of Mr Hampson on August 23, 2009. He has no previous convictions.
Ms Baxter told prosecuting counsel Patrick Gageby that a staff member found Mr Hampson after the lift had failed to come up to his level when called. He heard something dripping and saw Mr Hampson's hand trapped in the lift shaft.
The father-of-two, who had been promoted to assistant bar manager, was declared dead shortly after emergency services arrived at the scene.
Ms Baxter said staff members would get into the lift in a crouch position as it was not designed to carry people. They would push buttons outside the lift to access different levels and then exit head first.
Ms Baxter added that during the subsequent investigation some staff had said they noticed problems with the lift in the weeks prior to Mr Hampson's death.
A consultant engineer's report on the lift's state revealed that its safety features had been tampered with and that the lift could move between some levels with its door open.
The report had found that the lift had not been in fit condition to transport goods at the time of the accident.
Lambert admitted to health and safety inspectors that he used the lift on occasion and knew it was dangerous. He said he'd been satisfied with prohibition signs around the lift and had made threats of sacking staff who used it.
Defence counsel Michael O'Higgins apologised "unequivocally" in court on his client's behalf.
He said Lambert had nothing to do with overriding the lift's safety features.
He asked Judge Mary Ellen Ring to consider giving Lambert community service in lieu of the maximum two-year jail term or €3m fine.
Judge Ring acknowledged that "financial consequences pale in significance when talking about the death of someone" and added that a fine was not appropriate in this case given Lambert's current position.
She adjourned sentencing until April next year pending a probation and welfare report.
Aoife Nic Ardghail