Safety being put at risk, says lift union

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 12:00am

Public safety is being threatened by the heavy workload forced on lift and escalator maintenance engineers, a union says.

The comment from the Hong Kong General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees follows incidents in which two people were trapped in a lift on a Ma On Shan housing estate at the weekend. Last month, a lift company was fined for failing to carry out proper maintenance on a lift in Heng On Estate, also in Ma On Shan.

Union chairman Tse King-wa said the main problem was that contracts were awarded to companies on a lowest-bidder-wins system. 'As a result, of course, the companies do not use the best parts when carrying out maintenance,' he said.

As well as saving on resources, firms were also putting pressure on their workers to maintain too many machines, putting safety in jeopardy.

A veteran in the business, Tse said engineers used to work in pairs maintaining 50 lifts once every two weeks. These days, however, because of the squeeze on costs, the engineers were having to handle the same amount of work on their own. This meant workers had less time to carry out inspections, he said. Instead of taking 90 minutes, they only had an hour to do maintenance checks.

The industry has 5,000 frontline workers, but this is not enough if all safety requirements were to be followed, Tse said.

A worker with a decade's experience made between HK$8,000 and HK$9,000 a month, he said.

Lawmaker Ip Wai-ming, of the labour sector, urged the government to regulate the number of machines a worker should handle in a given period, and how much time they should spend on a single machine.

'I believe if regulation is not stepped up, more accidents will happen,' he said. 'I also hope that management companies or owners' corporations don't only pick the cheapest contractor, because safety is usually compromised if they do,' he said.

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department is considering introducing a licensing system for workers in the industry.

The department is also reviewing the Lift and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance to raise the maximum penalty for breaches to HK$200,000 and a year in jail. Amendments are expected to go to the Legislative Council later this year.

Fast work

Workers used to have 90 minutes to carry out maintenance checks, now they have this many: 60


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