Quality upkeep matters in ensuring lift safety

I read about the new measures concerning lift maintenance with great interest ("BCA moves to tighten lift maintenance, boost safety"; last Friday).

As an engineer, I have a few reservations on the efficacy and workability of the proposed regulatory changes.

First, we must recognise that lifts are designed to be extremely durable machines.

They are more than capable of continuous operation, with extended intervals between servicing, provided regular maintenance is carried out.

In Western Europe, for example, many older buildings continue to use lifts that were installed almost a century ago, and which have operated reliably and safely, with nothing more than routine repairs and refurbishment.

This suggests that regular, high-quality, thorough lift maintenance is the key to ensuring smooth operation, rather than simply having more frequent cursory inspections.

In Western Europe, many older buildings continue to use lifts that were installed almost a century ago, and which have operated reliably and safely, with nothing more than routine repairs and refurbishment.

We should also consider the practicality of scheduling these additional inspections.

There are approximately 59,000 passenger lifts across Singapore.

If the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) were to inspect each of them once a year, an average of about 160 lifts would have to be checked every day.

Let us bear in mind that a proper lift inspection is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process.

It is doubtful that the BCA will be able to marshal so much manpower, even with the help of external contractors.

Imposing such a heavy workload on inspectors also runs the risk of rushed, substandard checks.

At worst, this could exacerbate the problem of poor lift reliability and safety, when shoddy workmanship goes undetected.

Therefore, while the BCA has done the right thing in establishing more stringent standards for lift maintenance, going overboard with enforcement could ultimately prove counterproductive.

Perhaps, it would be better if town councils and the management of private estates took on a greater degree of responsibility and accountability for their lift installations.

This could entail scheduling maintenance, ensuring a high quality of work and keeping full records of tasks completed.

On its part, the BCA could also establish a hotline to record details of lift incidents as and when they occur, so as to expedite response and remedial action.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Quality upkeep matters in ensuring lift safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe