Lift Safety

By June 2016, the Building and Construction Authority estimated that there are about 59,000 passenger lifts in Singapore.  Considering this, there is a huge population across Singapore, using lifts frequently. Just like other mechanical devices, lifts have also been faced with a series of risks mainly impacted by failures, breakdowns and vandalism. These not only put the lives of the users in danger but, could also impact other complications in the buildings where the facilities are installed.

According to the prevailing regulatory regime, passenger lifts are required to undergo maintenance at least once every month. Besides, the lifts should also be examined, inspected and tested once each year. Although the reports from audit checks conducted by the BCA on passenger lifts indicated that a majority of passenger lifts are in good shape and safe for use, there are also a few cases with lapses, hindering the safety and reliability of lifts. Investigations into recent incidences of lift failures or breakdowns reveal that the overall standards of lift maintenance in Singapore can be enhanced for better lift safety.

In an attempt to improve the reliability and safety of lifts in Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority last year, introduced a set of measures mainly, regulating the maintenance of passenger lifts. The new maintenance regime rolled out by the BCA last year set out 20 maintenance requirements. However, almost 18 of these regulations were already in operation by the time the BCA announced its move to tighten lift safety.

New BCA Regulations for Lift Maintenance

The latest additions to the maintenance requirements for passenger lifts in Singapore include, ensuring that lifts only move up or down when the doors are closed. Besides, the authority also requires that all lifts should stop within 10mm from the ground level. In order to make sure that all these regulations are followed, the BCA scheduled audit inspections on passenger lifts to confirm if maintenance contractors are abiding by the requirements when doing their work.

Considering the importance of implementing these regulations, the Building and Construction Authority also introduced a fine of up to $5,000 for lift maintenance contractors who will be found guilty of flouting the regulations. On top of that, the authority also said those who fail to meet the requirements could also be issued with notices to carry out maintenance or have the facilities suspended.

In the new regulations, the BCA also requires all lift owners to show a ‘’Permit to Operate’’ (PTO). The permit is issued by the Building and Construction Authority and should be renewed each year by those who own passenger lifts. The Permit to Operate shows the name of the authorized inspector, who examined and certified the facility as well as the contractor who handles maintenance of the lift. This regulations is expected to come into effect from the second half of 2017.

It is also required that the owners of lifts and registered contractors, responsible for the most recent maintenance works on the facilities should inform the Building and Construction Authority whenever an incident of injury occurs to passengers on those facilities. The same protocol should be followed whenever a malfunction of any of the lifts’ safety critical components happens.

Upon receiving information about these incidences, the authority will initiate investigations. On the other hand, it could also direct the owners of the lift or registered contractor to conduct an independent investigation into the matter to ascertain why it happened. The BCA was keen on pointing out that, it is important for investigations to be carried out by its engineers and, also authorized examiners since incidents of lift failures or malfunction are usually impacted by a wide range of causes.

New Regulatory Framework for Escalators

The new regulations for lift safety also extend to escalators, which were estimated at about 6,000 last year. Escalator contractors in Singapore were all required to have been registered by November 2016. According to the new regulations, owners of escalators must involve a registered contractor by the BCA to perform maintenance on the facilities at least once every month.

There are ten specific outcomes expected of certified contractors when servicing escalators including, examining sensors and safety switches, emergency stop switches, handrail systems among others. All escalator maintenance contractors must act in compliance with the new regulations as well as the existing codes of practice outlined by the Building and Construction Authority.

On top of the monthly maintenance procedures, BCA also directs that all escalators must be inspected and tested every year by an independent inspector. It is only then that the owner of the escalator can proceed to obtaining a Permit to Operate from the BCA. The deadline for obtaining the PTO will be conducted in five stages, between January 2017 and January 2018, depending on when the building received a certification for completion.

All escalator owners will also be required by the new regime, to keep records of maintenance activities on those facilities for at least five years. These records should be made available for examination by the BCA on request. Besides, escalator owners and maintenance contractors should also notify the authority whenever any incident of injury or death is experienced on their facilities.

The Way Forward

Although the regulations outlined above by the BCA may seem essential in enhancing lift safety, the authority has expressed its commitment to even do more to ensure that passenger lifts are reliable and safe for all. The authority will continue to review the regulations for lifts and escalators to ensure that they are reliable and safe for all users across Singapore. Over the past years, it has been conducting public education through posters and other media on the importance of tightening lift safety regulations.

The Building and Construction Authority will also be looking into building industry capability to make sure that all players have the abilities and resources to comply with the new requirements for lift and escalator safety. Besides, it also added that lift safety is a collective responsibility and, users of these facilities should also be keen on reporting any incidences of lift or escalator hitches to the respective owners including, Town Councils for immediate action.