Singapore's building regulator said last night that it takes "a serious view on safety", following four lift breakdowns that took place in HDB blocks over three days this week.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) reminded lift owners and contractors last night that they are responsible for the required maintenance of their lifts.
It said in a statement that it has stepped up its lift audit inspections after the rules for the upkeep of lifts were tightened last July, following a series of breakdowns, one of which led to the death of a 77-year-old man who was on a mobility scooter.
The new rules "include requiring registered lift contractors to maintain lifts in accordance with specific maintenance requirements tied to key outcomes'', said its statement.
At the same time, BCA has taken enforcement action against lift contractors for failing to comply with specific maintenance requirements for lift buffers and door alignment, it added.
The reminder of the new rules follows the doors of three lifts getting stuck this week and the ceiling of a lift falling on a 10-year-old girl, hitting her forehead and injuring her foot.
It happened around 1pm on Wednesday.
Yesterday, two days later, a second lift in the same HDB block in Sengkang broke down for about 40 minutes, trapping a 70-year-old man inside.
On the day of the ceiling incident, a lift in an HDB block in Jalan Membina broke down at about 9 pm.
Bank manager Lim Eng Joo had taken the lift to fetch his son home from his enrichment lessons on the fourth floor.
Recounting the incident to The Straits Times, Mr Lim, 42, said he was trapped inside with six others, including two young children.
The lights and ventilation went out, plunging them into total darkness.
The lift alarm did not work and he could not use his mobile phone to call for help as there was no signal.
"I lost all contact with the outside world and in that instant, I was stunned," he said.
With help from fellow passengers, he managed to open the doors slightly, allowing him to dial the emergency number but no one responded, he added.
The power came on around 15 minutes later and the lift moved, allowing them to get out.
In the first incident on Monday, three residents were trapped in a Geylang Bahru HDB lift for 30 minutes when its doors refused to open on reaching the ground floor. It was forced open.
In all three cases, the town councils of Tanjong Pagar, Jalan Besar and Ang Mo Kio told The Straits Times personnel were sent to check the affected lifts.
Lift experts contacted yesterday said residents need not be overly anxious about the latest incidents. Mechanical and electrical consultant Lum Chong Chuen, 72, said it takes time and properly trained manpower to implement the new regulations effectively.
But he gave the assurance that most lifts in Singapore are maintained by competent staff, and safe to use.
Lift and escalator engineer Kok Peng Koon, 81, said there are more than 60,000 lifts in Singapore and the breakdowns make up just a tiny fraction. "Compared with road accidents, this is not a significant figure," he added.
IN THE DARK
I lost all contact with the outside world and in that instant, I was stunned.
MR LIM ENG JOO, who was stuck in a lift in Jalan Membina with no mobile connection.
But consulting engineer Chee Yan Pong, 72, disagrees.
"We have to be alarmed because human lives are involved and because of the presence of more lifts and more buildings above four floors. The population has to be sure that things are safe," he said.
Besides tightening lift regulations, government grants last year for lift maintenance and replacement, coupled with a $450 million Lift Enhancement Programme, will give town councils more than $100 million of additional funding for lift expenses.
Correction note: In our earlier story, we said there were four lift breakdowns in HDB blocks over two days. It should be four lift breakdowns in HDB blocks over three days. We are sorry for the error.