Why It Matters

Safety gets another lift

The lift lobby of Block 366 Tampines Street 34. PHOTO: ST FILE

Changes are in the works for lifts in public housing estates here, as town councils will soon receive funding to equip them with new safety features.

Just days after the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) called for lifts here to be modernised, the Government announced on Monday that it will help town councils do so for the Housing Board (HDB) lifts that they manage.

Under the new Lift Enhancement Programme, some $450 million will be set aside over 10 years to fund 90 per cent of the modernisation works. Town councils will pay the remaining cost.

The works will cover the eight safety features recommended by the BCA as part of its ongoing review of lift safety. These features include devices to prevent unintended lift movement, multiple sensors for doors and communication systems for passengers to use in emergencies.

Town councils have said that the new funding will relieve their financial burden, as such retrofitting exercises can be expensive.

As National Development Minister Lawrence Wong pointed out, implementing the extra safety measures would pose a considerable financial challenge to town councils if they were to do it alone.

"But given the importance of lifts in our daily lives and in our high-rise HDB living environment, the Government is prepared to commit to this additional spending and maintain high safety standards," Mr Wong said.

Lift safety in Singapore has come under scrutiny since October last year after a series of incidents left an elderly man dead and several others injured. All reported incidents took place in HDB blocks.

While the Lift Enhancement Programme is expected to boost lift safety, it is not mandatory and applies only to lifts that are 18 years old or newer. Older lifts would come under the town councils' existing lift replacement regimes.

Considering how more than a third of Singapore's lifts are in HDB blocks - where 80 per cent of the population lives - these moves, while costly, are necessary if we want to prevent more mishaps.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Safety gets another lift'. Print Edition | Subscribe