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Novel lifting: New CellarLift installed at the Novello Theatre

Novel lifting: New CellarLift installed at the Novello Theatre


The landmark Novello Theatre building in London’s West End was originally opened in 1905 as the Waldorf Theatre. Since then, the building was renamed multiple times, as the ‘Strand Theatre’ in 1909 and the ‘Whitney Theatre’ in 1911. It was only in¬¬ 2005 that the venue was given its current name - the theatre is named after the famous composer and actor Ivor Novello who lived in one of the flats above the theatre during his heyday.

Deemed by many as somewhat of a miracle, the building survived both the First and Second World Wars. The First World War saw the entrance to the building bombed heavily during a Zeppelin raid when 19 bombs fell on London’s Strand. Famously, the performance that night was of The Scarlet Pimpernel and in spite of the destruction going on all around, the actors managed to calm the audience and in true theatrical tradition 'the show went on'. During the Blitz, the venue was bombed again - lunchtime performances of Shakespeare were given with the artists picking their way to the stage over the rubble.

Since then, the theatre has been home to some of the UK’s most famous shows, including; The Rat Pack, Buddy - Alan Janes's musical about the life of Buddy Holly, Footloose, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In 2005, the theatre closed for a major six-month, £4.5 million refurbishment to celebrate its centenary, re-opening on 8 December 2005.

Working in conjunction with Dunbar & Boardman Elevator & Escalator Consultants, Penny Hydraulics Ltd specified a CellarLift device to enable drinks deliveries to be handled efficiently and safely between the roadside and the cellar in the theatre. The works form an important part of an ongoing plan of upgrades to the building.

“Most methods of handling drinks deliveries are reliant on potentially dangerous working practices which are too reliant on overly demanding manual handling techniques,” said Managing Director of Penny Hydraulics Ltd, Robin Penny.

Traditional methods for handling beer kegs typically involve the drayman or operative dropping the keg through the cellar hatch onto a drop mat in the cellar below. A colleague then waits below to roll the keg into place in the cellar. Similarly, drinks crates are manually handled between the two levels. Sometimes this involves carrying multiple crates up and down steep flights of steps. Working in this way, safe systems of work are often easily overcome in an effort to speed up the operation and this can result in broken containers, injury to operatives and damage to the building itself.

Incorrect manual handling is still one of the most common causes of injury at work, it causes work-related musculoskeletal disorders which account for over a third of all workplace injuries. Being a key risk factor in developing musculoskeletal disorders, those working in premises where traditional handling methods are used are therefore particularly at risk.

Specific regulations and legislation have been introduced to improve worker safety and reduce accidents and fatalities at work - The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002 apply to a wide range of manual handling activities, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying and outline what steps employers may need to take to protect employees from the risk of injury through manual handling tasks in the workplace. Importantly, the Regulations outline the need to avoid the requirement for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable. In response, responsible employers such as the owners of the Novello Theatre provide mechanical handling devices to reduce manual handling within their venues.

Penny Hydraulics offer a range of hydraulically powered compact goods lifts which are designed to reduce manual handling - making light work of lifting and lowering goods between floors in buildings. The company’s popular small goods lift, the ‘CellarLift’, is in use by all the major pub, restaurant and hotel chains throughout the UK and has been designed specifically for use in cellars.

“The lift eliminates the need to handle barrels and drinks cases from the delivery point - usually the street-level pavement door flaps - down to the cellar by hand,” said Robin. “The CellarLift is ideal for the Novello Theatre thanks to its robust and tried-and-tested design - it’s been the small goods lift of choice of the biggest names in the hospitality and leisure industry for the past 40 years and new order numbers continue to rise.”

Penny’s goods lift engineers provided a quotation for the lift and undertook preliminary surveys to identify the most appropriate configuration of the CellarLift and to highlight any potential health and safety issues.

“This included taking detailed measurements on site and providing information for use by contractors such as the electrical services that needed to be installed,” said Robin.

Following this free and no-obligation site survey, the bespoke lift was designed and manufactured by Penny Hydraulics at their purpose-built premises in the UK. The lift was designed to fit the cellar drop at the theatre exactly without any modifications to the building itself being required. The CellarLift, which is based on one of Penny’s standard specifications, is able to carry beer barrels up to 54-gallons, as well as a double stack of drinks cases.

“The lift has a fixed platform of 730 x 550mm,” said Robin. “We maximised the platform size to utilise the available space offered by the opening – it’s the perfect size for lifting crates of drinks.”

The lift is incredibly compact, occupying minimum floor space and is easily controlled by one operator via hold-to-run controls. No lift pit was required meaning no expensive and disruptive building works were needed.

Comprehensive project management helped from start to finish - from the initial enquiry, through to the specification phase, production, installation and aftersales. Once an installation date was agreed with contractors and once the equipment was installed rapidly by Penny’s dedicated network of service and installation engineers, it was commissioned and made ready for use.

Beyond installation of the CellarLift, in England it is a legal requirement under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) for lifting equipment to have a Thorough Examination and Test at regular specified intervals during its life. For peace of mind that the lift is maintained and safe for use, the Novello Theatre may now utilise Penny Hydraulics Service Division to carry out this important work.

“We offer a ‘cradle to grave’ service meaning equipment continues to be thoroughly examined in accordance with LOLER at regular intervals throughout its life by our dedicated nationwide network of specialist engineers,” said Robin.

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