Govt to ramp up lift inspections islandwide

BCA to intensify audits of lifts, especially those in HDB blocks, in wake of incidents

A man standing at the lift lobby of Blk 317 Ang Mo Kio Street 31. A 36-year-old Indonesian maid fell in one of the lifts after it suddenly shot up 17 floors. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN TAN

A spate of lift mishaps has prompted an islandwide ramp-up in inspections.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced yesterday that he has asked the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to intensify its audits of lifts around Singapore, especially those in Housing Board blocks.

"This may cause some disruption to lift operations and inconvenience to residents," he explained in a post on Facebook.

"I seek your patience and understanding on this matter. We want to be thorough in our checks and cannot compromise on safety."

The BCA said the checks will pay more attention to lifts in areas where incidents have occurred, before moving on to other places.

There are about 59,000 passenger lifts in Singapore.

According to the BCA, there have been 10 lift incidents since 2013.

The lift problems that have made the news over the past six months (since October) have all taken place in HDB blocks.

Last October, an 85-year-old Jurong resident's hand was severed by the doors of an HDB lift, although investigations showed that there was nothing wrong with the lift.

In January, a lift in Edgefield Plains was suspended from service after one of its inner doors stayed open while it moved.

On Monday, a 36-year-old maid fell after the lift she was in suddenly shot up 17 floors. It later stalled, trapping her.

The incident, which happened at Block 317 in Ang Mo Kio Street 31, is still being investigated.

Experts told The Straits Times that cases such as that in Ang Mo Kio are rare. The 23-year-old lift in this incident is five years short of the usual replacement age for HDB lifts.

But experts said a lift's safety depends on regular and proper maintenance, not its age.

Lift engineer Kok Peng Koon, 80, said: "Individual lift parts can still be upgraded. So it is important to check them."

Mr Wong also said the BCA will complete its review of lift regulations and standards this year. This review, which began in 2014, will include legislative changes.

The BCA did not specify these changes, but said it will conduct public and industry consultations on proposed amendments to maintenance regulations.

"Where needed, new measures to ensure the continued safety of lifts in our buildings will be introduced," it said.

Since January, the BCA has distributed 140,000 lift safety posters to all lift owners such as town councils and condominium managements.

These illustrated posters instruct users on the dos and don'ts in lifts - such as not jumping in the cabin.

The BCA has also sent out circulars to lift contractors and examiners to remind them to be vigilant in maintaining lifts, and conducted seminars to raise awareness of lift audit findings.

Under lift regulations, all passenger lifts used by the public must be maintained monthly. Such maintenance works usually involve inspecting items such as door sensors, brakes and lift cables, said experts.

MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah welcomed the extra checks by BCA. She said: "It is always good to have an extra pair of eyes. We don't want people to lose confidence in using their lifts."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline Govt to ramp up lift inspections islandwide. Subscribe