Faulty parts led to 36 lift incidents

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2009, 12:00am

Lift equipment faults led to 36 incidents last year, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department revealed yesterday after a spate of lift failures.

It released details of the lift accidents and the performance of lift maintenance companies for the first time as the Ombudsman launched an investigation into the department's lift safety monitoring system.

Seven of the 36 incidents involved cable failures, including one that occurred on October 25 at Fu Shin Estate, Tai Po, which saw a lift crash 14 floors to the ground, breaking seven of its eight suspension cables.

Tsang Chi-kong, secretary of the General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees, said he did not see anything interesting or new in the department's report.

'It is all old information that we and the public already knew,' he said. 'In fact, cable failure or even snapped cables is not new in our trade. It's happened before. People do not know about it because there was no accident and we simply replaced the cables.

'What really frustrated us was the October incident because the braking system failed to function at all ... it was very wrong.'

He said the department was trying to divert attention to the lift maintenance companies by naming them in the report. 'But then, as we stressed before, the culprit was the government's 'bunching approach' to lift maintenance contracts.'

The approach required contractors tendering for lift-maintenance contracts for government buildings to maintain different brands of lift under a single contract.

The government in November announced it would stop 'bunching' and would meet workers' representatives and lift contractors to review a code of practice to enhance safety.

Ombudsman Alice Tai Yuen-ying said the office would look into the department's lift inspections as lift safety was of prime importance with the many high-rise buildings in the city. The department has pledged to step up random inspections.

'While improvement measures should be applauded, we consider it necessary to examine the effectiveness of [the department's] monitoring system, which underpins the safety of lifts in Hong Kong,' she said.

The office's investigation will cover regulatory requirements for lift examinations under the Lifts and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance, the department's monitoring of lift checks and areas for improvement.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Ombudsman said it would not rule out extending the investigation, which might last six to nine months, to other government departments. The office said it welcomed public views on the matter and urged people to contact it by February 16.

A series of lift mishaps have occurred since the October accident. In the latest incident in Ma On Shan on Sunday, five people were trapped in a lift dangling some 24 storeys above the ground after a cable snapped.

Ups and downs

The number of lift equipment faults

2006: 31

2007: 27

2008: 36

Cases involving defective or broken cables

Oct 14: 27-29 Popular St, Sham Shui Po, Chun Ming Elevator, Mitsubishi

Oct 25: Fu Shin Estate, Tai Po, ThyssenKrupp, KONE

Nov 9: Wan Tau Tong Estate, Tai Po, Fujitec, Fujitec

Nov 11: Fu Shin Estate, Tai Po, ThyssenKrupp, Fujitec

Nov 27: Fu Shin Estate, Tai Po, ThyssenKrupp, KONE

Nov 28: Wo Ming Court, Tseung Kwan O, Schindler, Schindler

Dec 12: Tam Kung Mansion, Ma Tau Wai, Toki, Mitsubishi