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Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong lift safety upgrades eyed after woman dies in shaft at Sheung Shui housing estate

Electrical and Mechanical Services Department chief Alfred Sit says braking systems on lifts built before 2007 might not be up to scratch

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 11:01pm

Safety equipment on Hong Kong’s older lifts may have to be upgraded, a top official said on Monday, as lawmakers called for a quick response to Friday’s fatal accident.

A 64-year-old woman was found dead on Friday at a private housing estate in Sheung Shui, three hours after being dragged up then dropped to the bottom of the shaft. The lift was more than 25 years old, but property managers had inspected it and done and maintenance work in February and May. Between 2014 and 2017, it was inspected three times, according to the government’s Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) chief electrical and mechanical engineer, Cheung Kim-ching.

How safe are Hong Kong’s lifts?

EMSD head Alfred Sit Wing-hang said on Monday morning authorities had been looking into whether the incident stemmed from a failure of the lift control or braking system.

Braking systems on lifts built before 2007 might not be up to required technical standards, Sit said. The government might need to expand its Integrated Building Maintenance Assistance Scheme, launched in 2011, to modernise the systems, he added.

“We are actively exploring ways [to improve lift safety]. We might request lift models of a certain age join the scheme,” Sit told a radio programme. “The government might even provide a subsidy to speed up the process.”

Heartbroken surviving family members of woman who died in lift at Hong Kong estate ask why rescue was not tried earlier

There are about 64,000 lifts in Hong Kong, according to official figures. Some 24 per cent are between 21 and 30 years old, while 28 per cent are older than 31.

The government’s Urban Renewal Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society launched the assistance scheme in April 2011 to offer technical support and financial assistance for maintenance and modernisation work.

Sit said about 5,000 lifts had been upgraded under the scheme in the past six years.

“But if 10,000 lifts undergo maintenance at the same time in a short period, we might be understaffed,” he added. “We might have to proceed with the scheme phase by phase, year by year. Maybe we should go with older lifts first.”

The victim in last week’s accident, 64 and surnamed Kwok, lived on the seventh floor of the 25-storey building, with her husband, surnamed Chan.

Woman dies after falling into Hong Kong lift shaft at her estate

The department has completed examinations with the lift contractor on nine other lifts in the complex. All nine were said to be safe and had resumed operations.

But the lift involved in the accident was still closed on Monday, as the investigation proceeded.

I’m worried that more accidents could happen
Paris Court resident, surnamed Yan

Some 90 lifts of the same model operate in Hong Kong. The authority said it would examine them all within two weeks.

Over 200 of the estate’s residents attended a meeting on Monday night, where the owners’ corporation and property manager said it would consider terminating its contract with the lift maintenance company, Eugene Engineering, which had been silent since the incident.

They alleged the contractor was supposed to arrive on site within an hour of being notified of any problems, but its staff took close to three hours to show up.

Lawmaker and North district councillor Lam Cheuk-ting, who has been helping the victim’s family, said the contractor had not even gotten in touch with the deceased’s family.

Cheung said EMSD would investigate if the company had to bear legal responsibility for the accident.

A resident surnamed Yan who lives in Paris Court, one the blocks in the estate, expressed concern earlier about using the suspended lift in future.

“I’m worried that more accidents could happen,” Yan said, adding that the other lift in the building had sometimes been unstable.