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Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows government support to enhance lift safety in wake of recent accidents

Chief executive promises funding and policy support, saying she will ask Development Bureau and Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to follow up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 11:22pm

Hong Kong’s leader said on Wednesday her government would give policy and financial support to boost the safety of lifts in the city, following two serious accidents.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s pledge came as officials proposed multiple measures to enhance safety, such as considering financial incentives for building owners to modernise the lifts.

The Lift and Escalator Safety Advisory Committee also met on Wednesday to discuss the recent incidents, one of them fatal.

Earlier this month a 64-year-old woman died after being dragged and dropped to the bottom of a lift shaft at Paris Court in Sheung Shui Town Centre, a private housing estate.

In another case in early April, a couple were seriously injured when the lift they took at Waterside Plaza in Tsuen Wan failed to stop and smashed into the top of the lift shaft at the 46-storey residential block.

At the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, Lam was asked by pro-establishment lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan how the government would do better on lift safety, and specifically whether it would establish a HK$2 billion fund (US$254.8 million) to subsidise flat owners for the replacement and improvement of old lifts.

Lam replied that officials would “respond actively” to lawmakers’ concerns.

“Lift safety has often worried many people. Hong Kong does not only have an ageing population and buildings, but ageing lifts too,” Lam said. 

“So, the government is very willing to make policy and financial commitments, just like what we did on buildings in the last 10 years.”

The chief executive said officials had been helping owners to improve living environments through a project named Operation Building Bright, and that a fund had also been set aside for this purpose.

Improve lift safety in Hong Kong with mandatory maintenance and better pay

But Chan questioned whether extra funding would solve the problem, as the government had only been giving warnings to lift operators, he said, rather than prosecuting them or revoking their licences.

“Three of the worst operators are still managing 500 lifts across the city,” Chan said.

Lam said she would ask the Development Bureau and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to follow up on the matter.

“But … when we tighten regulation, the reality is that we are facing a manpower shortage, there is a serious shortage in electrical and mechanical technicians,” Lam added. 

Electrical and Mechanical Services director Alfred Sit Wing-hang said last week the government was thinking about providing financial support to flat owners to improve lifts in their buildings. Requiring new safety components for ageing lifts was also under consideration.

We are actively considering the offering of financial incentives to owners of buildings in need
Development Bureau

According to a Development Bureau submission to Legco on Wednesday, the authorities were formulating measures for different stages to enhance the safety of old lifts.

Currently there are about 66,000 lifts in Hong Kong of which about 80 per cent lack the latest safety devices, according to the bureau. Lift modernisation is being carried out on a voluntary basis and different levels of modernisation works have been done on about 5,200 lifts since 2011.

But authorities described the progress as “not remarkable”. 

In the short term, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department would “increase its manpower to step up surveillance of aged lifts”. It would also ramp up surveillance of relevant maintenance items to ensure the quality of the inspections and maintenance works carried out by contractors.

For the medium term, the authorities were considering offering subsidies to building owners to modernise lifts.

“We are actively considering the offering of financial incentives to owners of buildings in need,” the bureau stated, adding it would make reference to the Operation Building Bright scheme and a fire safety improvement works subsidy scheme.

The department would also “study the feasibility” of mandating lift modernisation works, and draw upon the experience of other countries while considering the impact on the community and the sector.