Tighter rules for lift upkeep welcomed

Industry players support detailed checklist, but some doubt efficacy of new BCA permit requirement

Repairmen inspecting a at Block 322 Tah Ching Road on Oct 9, 2015. An elderly woman’s hand was severed by the lift doors after she returned from walking her dog. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE

Residents and experts welcomed the tighter regulations on lift maintenance, but some noted that safety still boils down to how conscientiously such work is performed.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) yesterday announced there will be a detailed checklist for maintenance work that will kick in next month.

All lifts will also require an annual permit from BCA to operate from the second half of next year, and the agency will also beef up industry capabilities through measures such as new training programmes.

"It's definitely going to help," said lift engineer and authorised examiner Dominic Cher, 47, referring to the new maintenance checklist.

"Different lift companies have different maintenance standards and some may not have such detailed guidelines. So it's good that BCA is trying to close that gap so everyone will be on the same page."

Mr Ng Wee Keong, 62, Mitsubishi Elevator Singapore's head of operations and technical services division, said some of the new requirements are already on his company's internal maintenance checklist.

  • Recent lift incidents

  • OCT 9, 2015

    Madam Khoo Bee Hua, an 85-year-old Jurong resident, lost her left hand after the lift doors closed on her dog's leash that she was still holding onto while her pet was outside.

    The leash, at 2mm thick, was too narrow for lift sensors to detect.

    When the lift moved, the leash tightened around Madam Khoo's wrist, pulling her hand through a small gap at the bottom of the doors, where it was crushed and severed.

    She also fell and broke her left leg.

    Investigations found nothing wrong with the lift at Block 322, Tah Ching Road.

    MARCH 7, 2016

    A lift at Block 317, Ang Mo Kio Street 31, shot up 17 storeys, causing an Indonesian domestic worker, Ms Evi Lisnawati, 36, to fall and hurt her back.

    The lift later stalled, trapping her inside for 1½ hours before she was rescued.

    Investigations found the brakes of the lift were not working well, due to the "jammed mechanical parts of the brakes, oily brake drum and worn-off brake liners".

    MAY 15, 2016

    Mr Lim Hang Chiang, 77, died after hitting his head when his mobility scooter tipped as he was backing out of the lift.

    The lift at Block 247, Pasir Ris Street 21, was not level with the lobby floor when the doors opened, causing Mr Lim's scooter to topple.

    Investigations are ongoing.

    JUNE 7, 2016

    Part-time cleaner Yeo Choon Tee, 59, hurt her spine when taking a lift from the ninth floor of Block 150, Petir Road, in Bukit Panjang.

    Instead of descending to the ground floor, the lift lurched to the 11th, dropped to the third, then shot up to the 12th.

    Investigations are ongoing.

    JUNE 10 & 12, 2016

    On June 10, the lift at Block 299A, Compassvale Street in Sengkang, which was carrying six passengers, jerked, stopped randomly between floors and shot downwards suddenly.

    On June 12, another resident was taking the same lift to the ninth floor when it jerked and halted midway before opening at the fifth floor instead.

    Investigations are ongoing.

He said: "There's nothing really new to me, but it serves as a good reminder and ensures all lift contractors meet a minimum standard."

Sengkang resident Tan Joo Jin, 45, said the changes were useful.

"As a safety manager, I know having a detailed checklist helps even an experienced person remember things and not miss any of the steps," said Mr Tan, who was in a lift at his Compassvale Street block when it stopped between floors and dropped suddenly last week.

Mr Cher agreed the lift industry needs more who are qualified. "This industry is definitely lacking people. Many of the skilled technicians have retired and it's hard to attract young people. It's not a glamorous job - it's dangerous, dirty and demanding."

But while they agreed a checklist is useful, industry players questioned the effectiveness of the new permit-to-operate system, which will require all lifts to obtain a BCA permit, on top of the certificate of lift maintenance and testing that authorised examiners now issue to lift owners for lifts to run.

BCA said when building owners have to apply for a permit upon the expiry of the certificate, it would be able to obtain more information from them to show the lift has been maintained properly. BCA may also ask for more checks and tests before issuing the permit.

Said Mr Cher: "At the end of the day, the BCA cannot check every single lift. They will still have to rely on the authorised examiners to ensure the lifts are safe."

Mr Tan said the requirement for lift owners to display the new permit, which indicates the maintenance contractor and the examiner who inspects and certifies the lift, is merely a psychological reassurance."The more important thing is, are they maintaining the lifts properly? I would like to see those maintaining the lifts adopt a mentality that is more proactive rather than reactive. We should be catching any problems before accidents happen."

Safety executive Lim Keng Swee, 45, whose father Lim Hang Chiang died after a lift accident last month, said: "In the first place, lift examiners should be competent enough and checks should be thorough."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline Tighter rules for lift upkeep welcomed. Subscribe