Farra Engineering

Congratulations to the team at Farra for taking out the Safety Innovation Award for large organisations at the 2016 Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards.


Founded more than 150 years ago, Farra is a Dunedin-based engineering company which serves both domestic and international customers.

The company employs about 115 people and its lift division provides a variety of services, including full lift car manufacture, fit outs and retrofitting.

We spoke to Lift Components Works Manager Mervyn Maskill about how Farra’s innovative solution is making work in a high-risk environment safer and healthier.


After successfully branching out into the lift industry, Farra soon realised lift shafts could be made much safer and healthier. Shafts were poorly lit and access was restricted to only the ground and top floor, increasing the risk of being trapped during an emergency. Hoardings were traditionally made of thick plywood panels, covering the entrance to the shaft. Hinged at the top and bottom floors, these usually blocked out any natural light. In other cases, large mesh hoarding are used, which allow more light but also small pieces of construction debris to fall into the shaft, creating an unsafe environment.

Mervyn says access was a major safety issue, with research showing that most work-related deaths in lifts are either caused by, or related to, workers being able to exit the shaft quickly enough.

“A high percentage of lift maintenance injuries could have been avoided or less severe had the worker been able to get out or raise the alarm more quickly,” Mervyn says.

“It seemed crazy that in this day and age someone could lie in a lift shaft injured unable to get out, without anyone able to hear him, it’s just a hugely unsatisfactory level of care.”

What did they do?

Seeking a solution, Farra looked overseas, where hoardings are more commonly used. Unsatisfied with what they saw and realising they could do a better job, Farra set about designing and building their own modular, light-weight solution. The team came together to design, trial and build what eventually became known as the “Farra Hoarding”. Workers from the lift division were heavily involved in the design of the final product, ensuring that the end result was practical and easy to use on-site. Made with light-weight plastic panels, the system can easily be carried by one person, reducing the risk of manual handling injuries. Able to be tied down or anchored, it can be used on almost any job, including sites open to the public.

Outcomes and benefits

The Farra Hoarding is now used on all of the company’s lift construction jobs. The transparent panels allow natural light into the shaft, while still preventing bystanders from disrupting work. The panels also prevent construction debris from entering the shaft and hitting a worker and equipment can be stored inside the hoarding. Each level has a perforated mesh top, allowing for ventilation, as well as an extra layer of protection from falling debris.

Mervyn says the system has the potential to be used for a range of applications where there is an opening and a risk of a fall from height, such as stairwell, cellars, basements or rooftop exits.

Feedback from workers and customers had been overwhelmingly positive, with workers enjoying the safer and healthier environment, Mervyn says.

“By having a quick exit system without keys on the inside of the door, and placing the hoarding door away from the shaft exit, the Farra Hoarding allows for easier, faster access. Most importantly, it provides an instantaneous exit in an emergency.

“What we have created is a cost-effective solution to a potentially fatal risk.”

“What we have created is a cost-effective solution to a potentially fatal risk.”

Mervyn Maskill, Farra Lift Components Works Manager


pic of award

Health and Safety Manager Logan Miller receives the award on behalf of Farra.