ARTHURS SEAT CHAIRLIFT
Open letter to Victorian Government
The Arthurs Seat Chairlift has now been prevented from operating for more than four
years by WorkSafe during which time the company has made every effort possible to
satisfy demands that the WorkSafe cannot and has not clearly defined.
To continually say comply with the Canadian Ropeways Standard Z98 in regard to
chair rope grip design is a nonsense as this document has clauses that are badly
defined and in other cases totally irrelevant to the Arthurs Seat Chairlift.
No other chairlift in Australia, and there are a number using identical rope grips, has
done what the WorkSafe wants, nor to date has it been possible to identify a chair or
ski lift in Canada or America which has been modified as demanded by WorkSafe.
Nor does any other comparable ropeways standard in the world mandate that rope
grips incorporate springs.
There is therefore no precedent or operating experience existing to justify or to give
support to the WorkSafe’s demands, and attempts by them to obtain international
guidance from (1) American expert Mr L. Okreglak (past chief engineer of Yan lifts),
(2) Canadian expert Mr L. Morganthalier, and (3) British Columbian Safety Authority
of Vancouver has failed as each party has said that they were unable to do so.
Notwithstanding this situation, Arthurs Seat Chairlift has noted that a majority of
Australian skilifts do employ rope grips of different design to those in use at Arthurs
Seat for over 50 years, and which are specifically designed to incorporate springs. Lift
speeds and operating conditions are quite different to those at Arthurs Seat.
In this context, Arthurs Seat Chairlift has examined many such rope grips in an
attempt to take advantage of design innovation, and has put proposals forward to
WorkSafe which have yet to be accepted.
It is important to note that chair slippage and even chairs falling off lifts is not
unknown on spring grip equipped lifts., and there are currently several cases
worldwide where spring grip failures have caused multiple deaths.
Arthurs Seat Chairlift’s eminent engineering advisers are adamant that the
existing and well proven rope grips satisfy Z98 as equivalent safety is provided.
The company would prefer that no change be made to the grips that have been
used successfully for over 50 years.
The iconic Arthurs Seat Chairlift was built in 1960 and has been progressively
upgraded over the years with replacement of pylons, new galvanised foundation bolts,
haul rope, drive and gears, brakes and the latest state-of-the-art electronic controller.
This work was completed in 2004 and was carried out to modernise the chairlift and
to conform to standard Z98.
These improvements were advised to WorkSafe and supervised by WorkSafe during
It is well known that the chairlift has suffered three unfortunate incidents in recent
years as described in detail in the attached statement by Professor Kuhnell who has
been intimately involved in each event.
Briefly, these unfortunate incidents were:
1. Pylon 8 collapse on 3/1/2003.
Determined by experts to have been caused by poor installation in 1960 which
permitted water ingress to corrode foundation bolts under the pylon base plate.
As mentioned above all eight pylons have been renewed including new
galvanised foundation bolts. After the rebuild and commissioning which was
supervised by WorkSafe, the lift restarted operations on 5/1/2004.
2. Chair slip on 16/3/2004.
Safety features were added to chairs and operational changes introduced to
relocate chairs so that none were accessible when the chairlift was not
Experts determined that the cause was outside interference by person(s)
unknown as a second chair was found loose one week later despite all chairs
having been previously checked by WorkSafe and the company maintenance
staff one day after the incident.
The company was prosecuted for this incident with the matter still under
appeal in the Supreme Court (as at July 2010).
As part of WorkSafe’s review of operations it noted that one of the chairlift’s
road crossings was 4.25m. The VicRoads signage controlled the roads at 4.0m.
WorkSafe was concerned that an oversized vehicle may illegally enter the
controlled road. Consequently, the Arthurs Seat Chairlift was instructed to
provide additional clearance over the road of 6.0m which entailed increasing
the height of pylons 3 and 4. Copies of the certified design changes, an
updated rope profile by surveyor and, in response to a WorkSafe request, a lift
loading readout were supplied to WorkSafe.
Chairlift operation resumed on 5/11/2004.
It is a matter of record that the above rope profile changes were the cause
of the third incident on 16/5/2006, a derailment – imbalance of passenger
loads caused the rope to lift fractionally off pylon 5 for a short time.
3. Derailment on 16/5/2006.
As noted above, this derailment was caused by the rope profile changes of
October 2004 with the WorkSafe’s reaction totally incomprehensible from an
engineering point of view. WorkSafe seized two sets of pulleys which
prevented their experts and everyone else from carrying out meaningful
inspection of the lift as it clearly could not be rotated. Seven Prohibition
Notices were issued that had no connection with the cause of the incident, one
of which blamed the chair rope grips and demanded that they be modified to
comply with standard Z98. Subsequently, WorkSafe was more specific and
demanded that Belleville washers be added to the grips bolted connections.
Arthurs Seat Chairlift’s engineering consultants prepared a prototype
and tests witnessed by WorkSafe were carried out. Subsequently, in May
2007, WorkSafe inspectors issued an instruction that the grips internal
profiles which mesh with the weave of the rope should be ground out (ie.
Clearly the inspectors concerned had not thought this through and obviously
had not carried out the elementary engineering analysis of the grip assembly
as this instruction would cause the integrity of the rope clamps to be
Arthurs Seat Chairlift refused to comply with these instructions and took
the matter to VCAT (at a cost of $130,000) at which the WorkSafe stated
that the relevant prohibition notice was “Risk Remedied”. As the notice
listed all relevant clauses in standard Z98 applying to rope grips this
clearly meant that WorkSafe had accepted compliance with Z98.
This was not the end of the matter. In the intervening months, WorkSafe inspectors
and consultants carried out regular inspections and could not establish a cause of the
derailment – yet came up with a list of possible causes and defects that the WorkSafe
legal people turned into a prosecution of 50 charges (dated 22/3/2007). Compliance
with standard Z98 grip clauses was one such charge.
All of these charges were irrelevant to the cause of the incident. I refer to a letter by
Mr Ian Forsyth, acting CEO, WorkSafe to Hon Greg Hunt MP dated 21/12/2006 in
which he stated that “exact cause need not be established as a matter of law” and “the
necessary conditions for the derailment were all in existence on that day and that
systems in place were inadequate to prevent the incident occurring”.
Since the cause of the incident was an instruction from WorkSafe who was
provided with all the information that they requested and clearly did not detect
the cause the question arises as to the WorkSafe’s culpability in this matter.
It is also a matter of conjecture as to WorkSafe culpability in not ensuring that
its employees were adequately qualified and trained for their positions.
After much delay and many directions hearings, the matter was brought to Frankston
Magistrates Court on 15/8/2008 where the 50 or so charges were withdrawn leaving
only the Improvement Order required by WorkSafe that included rope grip
compliance with standard Z98 by the addition of Belleville washers and updated
maintenance manual material.
Arthurs Seat Chairlift was most upset to be handed a criminal prosecution based
upon such incorrect matters. In particular, to be charged for not having
drainage holes in what are watertight pylons says a considerable amount about
the lack of technical knowledge of WorkSafe staff and their procedures.
Parks Victoria’s involvement in the matter
Parks Victoria took over the management of Arthurs Seat State Park in the late 1990s
and Arthurs Seat Chairlift’s last 21 year crown land lease terminated on 31/1/2000.
After an Expression Of Interest process Arthurs Seat Chairlift was granted an interim
3 year lease to be concurrent with their preparation of a Management Plan for the
It took Parks Victoria two and a half years to prepare the lease which was signed on
4/9/2002 for a 3 year period to 4/9/2005. Despite agreeing terms for a new 10 year
lease on 10/3/2005 and issuing a draft lease for approval on 10/8/2005 no document
was issued until 5/1/2009, and was backdated to 4/9/2005 and included the
requirement that the company must resolve its disagreements with WorkSafe by
22/2/2009 or the lease would be terminated.
As detailed above, Arthurs Seat Chairlift only had a lease for 3 years in the last 10
years due to Parks Victoria’s inability to act in a timely manner.
The catch up lease somehow takes ownership of the name “Arthurs Seat” as it gives
permission for the company to continue using the name. Arthurs Seat is a
geographical location and township and is not the property of Park Victoria.
There were two consequences arising from this situation:
1. At the conclusion of the VCAT hearing of 27/8/2007 WorkSafe had no orders in
place that prevented the chairlift from restarting except that Parks Victoria had no
lease available. Mr Ian Forsyth of WorkSafe had advised Hon Greg Hunt MP that
“the matter of the prosecution would not impede the reopening of the chairlift”. It
was therefore Park Victoria who prevented the chairlift from restarting on
28/8/2009 and also the loss of the sale of the business to the McKeon consortium.
2. As would be expected, in 2003 Parks Victoria designated WorkSafe as the
authority overseeing the chairlift upgrade work and doubtless have maintained
contact continually in the following years.
It came as no surprise to the company when Parks Victoria raised the matter of the
catch up lease of 5/1/2007 and were advised by a Parks Victoria executive “My
manager has been talking with WorkSafe and we don’t think you can meet the
This was clearly an untenable situation – WorkSafe were unable to precisely
define what they wanted while we had to satisfy them with what?
Subsequently, this unsavoury matter continued at a rehearing at Frankston Magistrates
Court on 12/5/2009 when WorkSafe appeared with a counsel who they had not
briefed and who stated that he was too busy to act upon the matter before October
2009, at which time WorkSafe said that the matter was futile as Arthurs Seat Chairlift
had no lease.
It is clearly a matter of conjecture that WorkSafe has had no intention of resolving the
issue and is prepared to destroy a longstanding iconic tourism business that has been
totally upgraded to “state-of-the-art” and could with goodwill and cooperation resume
operation well before the next summer season.
I ask you to find a solution to this ridiculous impasse for the benefit of local
businesses and tourism.
Richard Hudson C.Eng.M.I.Mech.E
Arthurs Seat Chairlift Pty Ltd
Note: This matter has been referred to Members of Government and Opposition, to
the Victorian Ombudsman, to senior counsel and to other interested parties.
Professor Bruce Kuhnell – Press Release – October 2008
My association with Arthurs Seat Chairlift (ASCL) began in January 2000 when, as a
consultant to Victoria WorkSafe Authority (VWA), my investigation of a pylon
collapse revealed that it was inevitable due to construction – not poor design and not
poor maintenance – because of the concrete infill that led to crevice corrosion of the
On 16/3/2004, I investigated grip slippage when a woman was injured and determined
that the incident was due to vandalism or sabotage – not poor design and not poor
maintenance – because of the extent of the nylok nut looseness and the overnight
positions of the chair(s) involved being at the upper and lower end stations.
Later on 16/5/2006, I investigated a deropement – the root cause of which was a
VWA requirement to raise pylon 3.
VWA has employed several interstate and overseas expert witness consultants over
four years to attack the design of the fixed grip chair clamping arrangement at ASCL.
This is because of a grip travel range clause in the Canadian Standard for chairlifts,
which in my opinion is irrelevant to ASCL because the ASCL grips have projections
that lock into cable grooves and are regularly maintained to retain adequate gripping
Each consultant has suggested replacement with spring loaded grips. Each consultant
has been shown to be unqualified to recommend changes in regard to the ASCL grip
design. The latest of the VWA consultants even stated that the internal projections in
the grips be smoothed off. That would be very dangerous. The ASCL grip design has
been proven to be sound over forty years of safe operation.
ASCL is a scenic lift. It operates at a serene speed of less than 1 m/s. Spring loaded
grips are appropriate for fast speed lifts (> 5 m/s) that have to be diverted to slow
speed loading station cables and then transferred back to the high speed cables. In my
opinion it would be very dangerous to blindly follow an irrelevant Canadian Standard
Professor Bruce Kuhnell ex Monash University is an acknowledged expert in
Mechanical design specialising in bolted connections.
Arthurs Seat Chairlift – Technical details
• The chairlift was totally rebuilt in 2003 to conform to latest international
standards as set out in AS2338 and Z98: 2002.
• Chairlift is 950 metres long between end wheels and rises 227m.
• Chairlift has capacity for 80 chairs (60 normally used).
• Travel speed is 0.75 m/s normally but can be varied between 0 and 125% of 0.75
• Normal passenger capacity is 180 persons with one-way travel time of 20 minutes.
• Passenger capacity can be increased to 225 per hour with increased attendant at
• Chairlift drive is at top station with 30kw 8 pole AC motor driving through 4 stage
helical right angle gearbox, double gear coupling to vertical shaft fixed in
2540mm diameter end sheave.
• The rope is 2000 metres long 6/19 construction langs lay with fibre core. Rope is
galvanised and has one 34 metre splice.
• Speed variation is by Danfoss frequency converter with radiators, and dashpot
speed controller and both adjustable ramp up and ramp down stop/start controls.
• In addition to electronic braking the drive has an electromagnet 25.4mm drum
service (holding) brake on the gearbox input shaft, and two disc brakes acting
upon a brake disc on the driving sheave. These brakes are hydraulic release spring
applied. One acts as an overspeed brake activated by a sheave spoke counter,
while the other acts as a roll back brake.
• The auxiliary drive is a 15kw 4 pole AC motor which acts through a centrifugal
clutch and veebelts to the main drive shaft to the gearbox.
• Auxiliary poser is supplied by a 4 cylinder diesel generator of 42kva capacity.
• The chairlift can be operated using mains power or auxiliary power in either
mode, however the auxiliary drive is restricted to one revolution of the lift.
• The tail end sheave is mounted in a near horizontal travel frame and is tensioned
by a 2:1 rope system to a 4.6 tonne counterweight.
Controls & Systems
• Controls and switch gear are located at the top station control room.
• The operator has stop/start controls and emergency stop for both main and
auxiliary systems. Speed control is provided for the main system which can be
monitored by a current frequency digital read out.
• The top station attendant has stop/start controls and an emergency stop.
• The bottom station has a toggle stop switch linked to a neon in the main control
console, an emergency stop in the control box and a second emergency stop upon
the remote end of the counterweight slide support.
• All emergency stop controls are linked to the main emergency stop circuit which
also monitors rope derailment at each pylon pulley set, and also counterweight
slide over travel. Emergency system activation stops the drive and activates the
service brake and the disc brake.
• The operator has the benefit of a neon which advises the status of the bottom
station toggle switch, a neon for emergency system, and sixteen neons which are
linked to the sixteen derailment filaments.
• The operator has wind speed and direction indication and chair swing gauge. The
operator also has a public address system to communicate with passengers.
Pylons and running gear
• The chairlift has eight pylons of length to suit the profile of the terrain and the lift.
• Each pylon was redesigned and constructed in 2003 to include maintenance
platforms with hand rails, rope lifting structure, and P.A. system loud speakers,
ladders have lad-saf safety systems and shutters to prevent unauthorised access.
Each pylon is earthed.
• Foundation bolts are 32mm galvanised bars set in epoxy cement with both nut and
• The chairlift approaches to end stations are provided with pedestrian exclusion
areas, fully fenced and signed.
• The lift has 88 pulleys located as appropriate at end stations and upon pylons in
articulated mountings. The rope profile requires that compression pulleys be fitted
at pylon number 6 only (also pylon number 5 after derailment).
• Each pulley is machined cast iron with extrusion moulded runner tyre held in
place by a side plate. Bearings are generally antifriction although a few oilite
bushed pulleys are used where appropriate.
• The company owns pulley, rope grip patterns and also rubber tyre extrusion
The Grip Spring matter – background
1. The Canadian Ropeways Standard Z98 is a product of the Western Regions of
Canada and is referenced by Australian Standards Association and Victorian
2. The standard Z98 includes a requirement that chair grip force be totally applied by
springs. No other world standard has this requirement.
3. Clause 1.4 of the standard Z98 states that existing installations are expected to
meet operation, resting and maintenance requirements of the standard. ASCL
4. Clause 1.5 of the standard Z98 states exceptions to compliance are permitted
provided that equivalent safety is provided. ASCL complies.
5. Clause 184.108.40.206 of the standard Z98 states that the working range of the grip jaws
shall extend from -6% to +10% of normal rope diameters. ASCL complies.
6. Clause 220.127.116.11 of the standard Z98 states that the gripping force of the grip jaws
shall not decrease by more than 25% when rope diameter changes by +10% to -
6% of the normal rope diameter. This is total nonsense and cannot apply to ASCL
– rope decrease has been 0.5% in 16 years and the grips do not detach.
7. Clause 18.104.22.168 of the standard Z98 states that resistance to sliding shall originate
from a force exercised by springs and exclusively from friction between the grip
jaws and the rope (except for insert grips).
Arthurs Seat Chairlift’s expert engineers assert that as the grip, rope and grip bolts
are steel the assembly has inherent springiness and therefore complies.
This clause could be read to infer the internal profiles are not permitted. This is
not the case as the enclosed email from Mr John Ogilvy, Chairman of Z98
Committee states: “Grinding out the rope profile appears to me to be doing
exactly the opposite to what you want to achieve, that is to prevent the grip
slipping along the rope”. Note also the reference to YAN Lifts – their fixed grips
used profiled inside faces and clamped the two bits together using bolts and
springs. WorkSafe American expert was a past chief engineer of YAN Lifts and
could not advise. Interesting? He said he couldn’t help.
Arthurs Seat Chairlift after consultation with its engineering experts have offered
WorkSafe a simple design consisting of a DIN 6796 heavy duty washer under the
head of the grip bolt and another under the nut. This provides additional
springiness should the assembly relax but does not allow the grip halves to open
which is what is required.
Richard Hudson, Managing Director, Arthurs Seat Chairlift visited the offices of
Key Bellevilles, Inc in Leechburg, PA in July 2009 to meet with Bernard McPeak,
Vice President of Engineering of that company, the largest supplier of Bellevilles
in the world to show him a mock up of the proposal. He stated that his DIN6796
heavy duty washer in preset state was ideal for the application. Refer to enclosed
WorkSafe has yet to agree to this proposal.
ARTHUR’S SEAT SCENIC CHAIRLIFT – A BRIEF HISTORY
After more than 50 years of continuous safe operation, there have been 3 recent incidents
at Arthur’s Seat Scenic Chairlift. These incidents need to be seen in some perspective.
ACCIDENT #1 TOWER COLLAPSE (January 2003) – NO serious injuries
• Caused by a foundation fault under the base-plate of Tower No. 8. It
took more than 50 years for the fault to manifest itself as an incident
– the fault was invisible at ground level and undetectable to any
scientific test known to engineers at the time – all towers and
foundations were refurbished or rebuilt after the accident.
ACCIDENT #2 ROPE GRIP SLIPPAGE (March 2004) – 1 person
• NO scientific evidence of any neglect by Arthur’s Seat company
• Unproven suspicion of interference by outside persons –the evening
before the accident, at least two (2) eye witnesses observed a person
interfering with rope grip which slipped the next day; formal report
that evening to Police who did not follow up report. Eye witnesses
have provided solicitors with sworn affidavits about the matter.
Victoria Police also investigated “outside interference” and were
also unable to rule it out.
• Investigation report provided to Workcover from their own expert
(CSIRO) who advised they were unable to rule out interference by
an outside person and that when properly installed, ASCL rope grips
meet the “resistance to sliding requirements” of the (Canadian)
Standard cited by VWA
• Several different kinds of physical evidence recorded at accident
scene which supports suspicion of outside interference
• After accident clean-up & reinstatement of lift for testing purposes,
rope grip again interfered with by outside person – matter referred to
Victoria Police who are unable to pursue the matter very far because
of lack of evidence trail to any perpetrator.
• ASCL nevertheless prosecuted under OHS Act, pleads guilty &
convicted of criminal offence, for failure to provide a safe workplace
• ASCL appeals against prosecution – appeal still pending
• Workcover issues Notices requiring that Chairlift undergo significant
modifications, most of which ASCL believe introduce unnecessary
risk to the safety of the Chairlift and passengers.
• ASCL successfully appeals to VCAT against most of the Notices &
Notices over-ruled, apart from the raising of Tower #3 which
significantly changes Chairlift profile (modification considered risky
by ASCL but company cannot resist VWA force on this particular
ACCIDENT #3 HAUL ROPE DE-RAILS (May 2006) – NO injuries
• ASCL prosecuted under OHS Act - VWA actively pursues deal in
which ASCL required to plead guilty in exchange for VWA seeking
NO CONVICTION to be recorded and NO PENALTY to be
imposed provided that ASCL modify chairlift as required earlier by
Notices against which ASCL had already successfully appealed (see
• ASCL agree to proposition, pleads guilty in Frankston Magistrates
Court on the proviso that VWA provide technical advice about how
the modifications can be safely incorporated into Chairlift
• VWA engage expert from USA who “recommends that ASCL
modify Chairlift as required by VWA” but who then admits in
writing that he doesn’t have the expertise to do what he actually
recommends; USA expert also reports to VWA that ACCIDENT #3
(haul rope de-rail) was caused (at least in part) by the modification
which VWA had ordered by Notice after the second accident.
• VWA engage expert from Canada who agrees to produce
engineering design for achieving the modifications which Frankston
Magistrates Court ordered at the behest of VWA; expert produces
design which is patently unsafe, and according to engineering expert
engaged by ASCL is based on faulty calculations
• ASCL directly seeks expert advice by personally visiting USA and
Canada, thus obtaining technical advice as to how the modifications
might be achieved; advice also received during visits that:
• Canadian expert engaged by VWA has only limited
experience in the aerial ropeway industry, and
• many chairlifts in the world continue to operate despite using
the same grip design concept as used at Arthur’s Seat
• the (Canadian) Standard cited by VWA as requiring the
modifications VWA demand has not been universally
adopted in Canada, and is departed from significantly in
other parts of the world where aerial ropeways are used
• nobody in the world has yet modified rope grips the way that
VWA require the ASCL grips be modified, and
• (spring activated) rope grips of the design demanded by
VWA have suffered a significant number of slippages around
the world, some resulting in multiple fatalities
• Technical advice received by ASCL after personally visiting USA
and Canada presented to VWA; after 5 weeks of deliberation VWA
responds by informing ASCL that technical advice is insufficient to
satisfy them and formally request that, because of the elapse of time,
ASCL abandon the Frankston Magistrates Court hearing set for
Some random thoughts, assertions, questions:
• Given the High Court Challenge to the OHS laws in NSW on the
basis that there is no relief from them (no defence is practicably
possible), should the same challenge be mounted in Victoria or if the
NSW laws are successfully challenged, where does that leave us here
in Victoria and where does that leave ASCL?
• (specious argument for the sake of illustration only) -if the State
Workcover Authorities retain the right to criminally prosecute
companies who are unfortunate enough to have an accident, and
despite there being significant doubt about how the accident
occurred the company is forced to plead guilty because, de facto,
there can be no real defence (nobody’s pockets are as deep as the
Authority who collects and has management control, over the
premiums collected from the companies being prosecuted), why
should not all insurers in this country be given the right to criminally
prosecute their clients if the clients have an accident, even in
circumstances when proof beyond doubt that they caused the
accident is unobtainable? Given their total lack of technical support,
their total inability to provide the technical advice which they
solemnly undertook to the court that they would provide, their total
insensitivity to both the commercial tourist value of Mornington
Peninsula and the almost crippling commercial imposts on the ASCL
business, why should VWA not be asked to withdraw their
unreasonable demands for modifications to the rope grips,
modifications which have:
• never been scientifically shown to be necessary, and
• never been achieved anywhere else in the world, and
• been associated with many serious and some fatal accidents?
• Why should the so far unsupportable and unreasonable demands of
one State Authority (VWA) be permitted to cause another State
Authority (Parks Victoria) to call into question the commercial lease
arrangements between ASCL and themselves to the extent that the
second Authority now (allegedly) seeks their own relief by
attempting to obtain expressions of interest which may have the
effect of causing the premature termination of a commercial lease
arrangement of more than 40 years standing?
Health & Safety Engineering Pty Ltd