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Latest Hong Kong lift accident serves as cautious reminder

In a city of high-rises elevators and escalators are in constant use by the public, but mechanical safety should not be taken for granted

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 12:51am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 12:51am

Few people would think twice before stepping onto an escalator or using a lift. This is, after all, part and parcel of urban living in our high-rise home. Although a countless number of rides are taking place at any one moment across the city and they do not seem to pose any problem, it does not mean that such mechanical devices are all foolproof, as we were reminded on Sunday by a terrifying accident in Tsuen Wan, which must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities.

A couple living in a 46-storey block of flats were seriously injured after the lift they were in suddenly lost control and smashed into the top floor.

Lift crash estate residents reveal previous incidents at Tsuen Wan complex

An initial investigation suggested that a lack of traction between the pulley and suspension cables, or a braking malfunction may have been to blame. Although the problem was described as rare by government officials, the public is justifiably concerned about whether it might have been more than an isolated incident.

The lift in question was manufactured 27 years ago by a South Korean company that is no longer in business and those in the industry say maintenance and repairs have become more difficult as a result. About 300 lifts of the same make are currently in use across the city, and the government reacted correctly and promptly by ordering emergency safety inspections.

Hong Kong lift crash prompts urgent inspections of 300 identical models around city

Adding to concerns are the performance of the contractor and the maintenance mechanism. The lift in question had passed its annual test in January, with the company responsible reportedly given a top grade by the government for its performance. However, the firm was also involved in a fatal accident in February, when a technician was crushed while repairing a lift on a public housing estate. It seems that the performance appraisal by the government is no guarantee of safety.

How safe are Hong Kong’s lifts? Freak accident leaving couple seriously injured raises fears across city

Our urban infrastructure has been so well developed that we tend to assume everything will function without problems. The truth is that even the most sophisticated hardware needs regular maintenance and repair. The occurrence of serious lift and escalator accidents from time to time in our city is a reminder that mechanical safety cannot be taken for granted.