HDB bans firm Sigma from new lift projects after breakdowns

Action taken against Sigma after its newer lifts broke down more often than usual

The lift lobby of block 17b Circuit Road on Jan 6, 2017.
The lift lobby of block 17b Circuit Road on Jan 6, 2017.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

A company which has installed some 3,500 lifts in Housing Board estates has been banned from tendering for new HDB projects.

Lifts installed by Sigma Elevator have, over the past two years, been breaking down more often than usual in their early stages of operation, confirmed the HDB.

It was responding to queries after The Straits Times (ST) found that more than half the major reported cases of lift incidents in 2015 and last year involved Sigma as manufacturer or maintenance contractor.

Checks by ST also revealed a spate of lift faults in relatively new Build-To-Order projects - Compassvale Mast and MacPherson Residency - which had not been reported previously. Both involved Sigma lifts.

Yesterday, the HDB cited another reason for the ban, which has been in effect since October 2015: Sigma has been unable to meet the timeline of lift installation for certain projects.

"Going forward, HDB will not hesitate to exercise its contractual rights where required, which may also include imposition of liquidated damages and debarment from all public sector works," it said.


The statement yesterday comes in the wake of a troubling spate of lift breakdowns in Singapore's public housing estates.

In one case last year, a Sigma lift in Petir Road shot up and down between floors, injuring a 59-year- old resident.

While some faults have been attributed to ageing lifts, many Sigma lifts have been breaking down in their first year of operation.

HDB yesterday said that most of Sigma's breakdowns were due to "the alignment of lift doors or lift sensors, resulting in the doors of these lifts being more sensitive to knocks and rough use".

"This led to higher breakdowns during the initial period of usage, which typically sees heavy lift usage due to renovation and moving activities," it said.

Sigma's general manager Adreana Goh told The Straits Times that it has put up signage to raise awareness of proper lift usage and allocated additional resources and manpower "to realign door sensors and ensure that the door sills are cleaned and cleared of debris", adding that there has been an improvement in the performance.

HDB expects the works for all affected lifts to be completed by end-January.

There are about 24,000 lifts located in public housing estates, comprising about 20 different brands. Sigma lifts have been installed in HDB estates since 2007.

It has generally met performance requirements, though faults have been rather high over the past few years, said HDB.

Sigma is a subsidiary of Otis Elevator Company, an American company which also makes lifts for HDB under its own brand.

Last month, Sigma was fined by the Tampines Town Council for a safety breach. A Sigma worker had left the lift door open and unattended while cleaning a lift shaft at Block 886A, Tampines Street 83.

MP for MacPherson Tin Pei Ling, whose ward has experienced a number of Sigma lift breakdowns, said she was glad to hear the news. "I am relieved that HDB is taking action against lift contractors with poor performance. More importantly for affected existing lifts, the problem must be solved so as to ensure safety of all users."

Lift contractors are selected through open tenders based on their past performance in supplying and installing the lifts, the contractors' track records and financial capabilities, said HDB.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'HDB bans firm from new lift projects after breakdowns'. Print Edition | Subscribe