Lift plunge engineer jailed for failing to carry out thorough inspection

Magistrate aims to send clear message to industry on need to adhere to safety rules after seven injured in North Point accident

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 3:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 9:28am

An engineer who conducted only cursory checks on lift cables that later snapped, injuring seven people, was yesterday sentenced to five months in jail.

The conviction of lift engineer Lam Chi-wah, 72, is the first involving a jail term under the Lifts and Escalators (Safety) Ordinance.

Four of the seven injured in the North Point accident last year had to undergo operations, followed by rehabilitation therapy. Magistrate Symon Wong Yu-wing described the case as "very serious".

"The public rely on the professional and honest attitude [of engineers] to carry out [maintenance and inspection]," he said.

"From the information we have here, [Lam] was not sticking to these principles."

Wong highlighted a need to send a clear message to the industry to be serious and responsible when conducting inspections, so people would feel safe whenever getting into a lift.

Lam, of Shineford Engineering, entered a guilty plea last month for three summonses served on him, after initially pleading guilty and then, in December, changing his plea to not guilty.

The summonses say he "failed to examine the suspension ropes of the lift in accordance with the [ordinance]" during a periodic inspection at King's Tower in King's Road on November 21, 2012.

He also failed to examine the traction sheave of the lift - where the cables are attached - and signed off a certificate even though he knew it was false.

Lam checked 30cm sections of three out of the four 20-metre ropes only, the court heard earlier. There was insufficient lubricant on all four cables.

All four suspension ropes snapped on March 2 last year as the lift was passing the first floor on the way up.

The judge said the starting point of sentencing was eight months. Considering Lam's age, remorse and guilty plea, he cut the jail term to five months.

Four other defendants in the case - Shineford itself, company directors Mak Wai-kai and Lo Chi-kin and lift worker Chau Kwai-ping - have pleaded not guilty. Their trial will start later.

The ordinance requires lift contractors to ensure works are carried out properly and safely. Offenders face up to one year in jail and a HK$200,000 fine.

In April, a month after the accident, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department informed Shineford that its status as a registered lift contractor would be suspended for six months from May 1. It later told the company it would be struck off the Register of Lift Contractors and the Register of Escalator Contractors on October 16.