Lift inspections to be stepped up after accident

Poorly rated contractors will face more checks and ratings system will be reviewed following North Point elevator accident, department says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 5:50am

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) has pledged to step up its inspections of lifts maintained by contractors on the bottom rung of its performance rating system.

The assurance comes after a lift in a North Point commercial building plummeted to the ground when its four cables snapped on Saturday night.

The seven people in the lift at the time, aged 30 to 82, were all injured, with the 82-year-old man still in critical condition.

Shineford Engineering, the company responsible for maintaining the lift, was ranked seventh from the bottom in the Contractors' Performance Rating list, which assessed the city's 35 registered elevator contractors.

As of 5pm yesterday, the department had inspected 147 of the 248 lifts maintained by Shineford. Five - three in Kwun Tong and one each in North Point and Kowloon City - were suspended for violating its code of practice.

It would also look into the company's claim the lift cables that snapped last week were replaced just one or two years ago, the department said.

Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services Frank Chan Fan said the department was considering holding a disciplinary hearing with the company. Its licence could be revoked. "We will also step up inspection of the companies with unsatisfactory records," he said.

Chan also admitted that the performance rating system had to be reviewed.

The performance index comprises two parts: maintenance and safety, worth a maximum of 50 points each. Shineford had an index score of 69 - 19 points for maintenance and 50 for safety. Techfaith Engineering, which came in last on the list, scored 50 - zero for maintenance and 50 for safety.

Under the present system, companies with low scores do not face prosecution.

"We will review the rating system," Chan said.

"Although the system's main purpose is to provide a reference for management companies [in its choice of lift contractors to use], we will see if we should link it to our law enforcement actions in the future," he said.

Workers should be asked to check only five lifts a day," said Tse. "But they are often asked to check seven to eight lifts a day

Tse King-wa, chairman of the General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees, suggested revoking the licences of those who consistently score poorly.

As workers often had to inspect many lifts each day, the inspections may not be as thorough as they should be, he said.

"Each inspection should ideally take 90 to 120 minutes. That means workers should be asked to check only five lifts a day," said Tse. "But they are often asked to check seven to eight lifts a day."

Meanwhile, the department's deputy director Alfred Sit Wing-hang said the department had not ruled out the possibility of prosecuting Shineford.

Under the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance, the contractor could face up to two years in jail and be fined up to HK$200,000.

Sit said that lift cables could be used for as long as eight to 10 years if they were properly maintained.

"How could ropes changed just a year ago reach breaking point so quickly? This is very unreasonable and it will be the focus of our investigation," he said.

The department would check Shineford's documents and logbooks for proof that the cables had indeed been replaced and to find out why the problem had not been identified during the annual inspection of the lift in November.