The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department has decided to suspend for six months the registration of the lift maintenance contractor responsible for the North Point lift that plunged to the ground, injuring seven people earlier this month.
The department does not rule out the possibility of prosecuting the contractor, Shineford Engineering, which could face a fine of up to HK$200,000 and a year's jail if found guilty, said Alfred Sit Wing-hang, deputy director of regulatory services, yesterday.
Shineford can also have its license revoked under the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance, he said.
"We have found that [Shineford] has violated the ordinance in that it did not carry out maintenance work properly," Sit said.
The four cables of the lift at 480 King's Road snapped because they were rusty and needed oiling, he said. But he did not say whether the cables had been replaced just a year or two ago as Shineford had claimed.
The department informed Shineford of the six-month suspension yesterday, Sit said.
The contractor has 14 days to object by giving an explanation before the suspension takes effect on May 1, and another 30 days to appeal after it kicks in.
It can apply to resume its registration after the suspension, but it has first to convince the department that it has taken steps to improve its services, Sit said.
He said 248 lifts in 94 buildings would be affected by the suspension, and that his department had already contacted 92 of the building owners by yesterday.
The department has also sought 20 other contractors' help to take over Shineford's maintenance work, and a hotline 8108-2238 has been set up to assist the affected building owners as well as Shineford workers.
"Shineford is a small company and it has about 25 workers. We have already contacted the union to help them get a job somewhere else," said Harry Lai Hon-chung, assistant director of gas and general legislation. "As this industry still requires a lot of manpower, there should not be a problem absorbing them."
The department had earlier inspected all of Shineford's 248 lifts and suspended eight of them. Only two have resumed services so far.
Meanwhile, Tse King-wa, chairman of the General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees, said Shineford's punishment was serious but appropriate. "One thing we are really concerned about is that the government needs to ensure that the Shineford workers will be able to find a job somewhere else," he said.
Shineford's major shareholder Lo Chi-kin could not be contacted for comment yesterday.