The Straits Times says

Making every lift a safe lift

The safety of lifts is generally taken as a given here. However, a recent spate of accidents has necessitated the ramping up of lift inspections. The most horrifying among them is the case of an elderly Jurong resident, whose hand was severed by the doors of a Housing Board lift. Although investigations revealed that there was nothing wrong with the lift, the severity of the incident might prompt Singaporeans to wonder whether the lifts they use regularly are safe. Given that high-rise living requires constant dependence on lifts, it is essential to ensure all that is possible is done so lifts are maintained with the highest standards of safety in mind.

The Building and Construction Authority has been tasked with intensifying its audits of lifts in Singapore, especially those in HDB blocks. With 59,000 passenger lifts across the island, this is no easy task. However, the audits must be carried out scrupulously with the cooperation of all who are involved. Building managers should not baulk, for example, if they see the audits as possible sources of regulatory obligations that might incur additional costs in servicing or upgrading lifts. It's in their interests, after all, to ensure that lifts are in tip-top condition as they owe a legal duty of care to users.

The regulator had begun a review of lift regulations and standards in 2014 and will complete it this year. This might include legislative changes. The results of a comprehensive audit by the agency could throw light on areas which might warrant more attention. One might also ask how data collected during the audit will be managed and made available to those concerned. For example, should the Certificate of Lift Maintenance and Testing, displayed in lifts, also carry information on the age of the lift and the yearly number of significant technical incidents linked to it? That would put service staff and users on notice when a common facility gives more problems than it ought to. Is it being abused or are lift contractors and technicians quite blase about safety requirements and performing only cursory inspections when fulfilling contractual obligations?

A sound protocol is needed to enhance standards as the reliability of lifts - like the structural integrity of blocks and the ability of nearby units to withstand the spread of fire - bolsters public confidence in the provision of high-rise facilities as a whole. On their part, users must accept the temporary inconvenience caused by periodic inspections and maintenance work. They should also be civic-minded and play a part in preventing damage to lifts. Tips in safety posters, like not jumping in or overloading the cabin, should be heeded as lifts see diverse passengers daily, from those with children and animals to those carrying bicycles and heavy goods. All machines suffer from wear and tear; users mustn't hasten that process.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Making every lift a safe lift'. Print Edition | Subscribe