12 inspectors for 57,000 lifts too few: lawmaker

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 November, 2008, 12:00am

The government should employ more workers to inspect the city's 57,000 lifts as the 12 officers now responsible for the job were too few, a lawmaker said yesterday in comments prompted by a recent spate of lift failures.

Democrat legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo demanded that the number be increased to 50.

'There are only 12 officers carrying out all inspections. Every year, they can only examine 10 per cent of the 57,000 lifts and 7,000 escalators in Hong Kong,' Mr Cheng said after meeting Electrical and Mechanical Services Department officials.

'The manpower and the number of inspections are obviously not enough. And I really worry that people's safety cannot be protected.'

He said that along with the manpower increase, the percentage of lifts inspected each year should be raised from 10 to 20.

A Development Bureau spokesman said last night that it had 18 lift inspectors and this team would be strengthened. He said it would take immediate measures to enhance the safety of lifts and escalators.

He said the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department would consult contractors and workers' representatives through an existing working group, which would meet soon to review a code of practice.

The department would also step up spot checks of lifts in private buildings in the next three months, he added. It is now conducting random checks on 10 per cent of 49,000 lifts in private buildings.

In the past 20 years, the department issued only 10 warning letters to manufacturers and repair companies, and none were fined or had to forfeit their licences.

The department pledged earlier that it would inspect all 500 lifts of the same model and age as the empty one that plunged 14 floors in Tai Po's Fu Shin Estate on October 25, in the worst of five recent incidents. The same company, Finland-based manufacturer Kone Elevator, is involved in at least two incidents.

Meanwhile, five people were trapped for an hour in a lift near exit A of the Central MTR station at 6.40pm last night in the fifth such incident. Firemen freed the stranded people in the lift, maintained by Kone. The lift was closed last night. An MTR Corp spokeswoman said all its lifts were checked every two weeks.