Why It Matters

Time to take lift safety up a level

A man reads a Straits Times article pasted at the lift lobby in a HDB block in Ang Mo Kio, on March 7, 2016. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN TAN

Lift safety is back in the spotlight, with the Government promising to ramp up inspections islandwide after a number of high-profile mishaps recently.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said last week that he had asked the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to step up its audits on lifts here, particularly those in Housing Board blocks.

The BCA also said its ongoing review of lift safety rules, which will include legislative changes, will be completed this year. It did not specify these changes, but said it would hold consultations on proposed amendments to the lift maintenance regulations.

Meanwhile, it has issued posters and circulars and run seminars to raise awareness on lift safety.

While it is good that action is being taken, one question remains: How safe are the 59,000 passenger lifts in Singapore?

According to the BCA, there were 10 lift incidents since 2013. While this is not many, there is still cause for concern, as some of these incidents have resulted in injuries. Last October, an 85-year-old woman in Jurong had her hand severed by the doors of a lift she was in. Investigations later found nothing wrong with the lift. In January, a lift in Edgefield Plains was suspended from use after one of its inner doors stayed open while it moved.

Just last week in Ang Mo Kio, a 36-year-old woman fell and hit her back after the lift she was in shot up 17 floors suddenly. The cabin also stalled, trapping the woman for over an hour. The case is still under probe.

The BCA has said it has not seen any pattern in the causes of the recent lift failures. But they raise questions on whether current safety regulations and practices are enough.

For instance, is maintenance done regularly and thoroughly? Could the current checks have blind spots? Should older lift safety technology be updated even before the lift's life span is up?

The outcome of BCA's review might be able to answer some of these questions and address concerns many Singaporeans have on the lifts they are so dependent on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Time to take lift safety up a level'. Print Edition | Subscribe