Company and workers face prosecution over Hong Kong escalator accident
Court action taken after 18 people were injured in the incident in March
An escalator contractor, an engineer and an escalator worker have been prosecuted by the government for failing to carry out proper maintenance and examination, six months after an accident on Hong Kong’s longest escalator injured 18 people.
Otis Elevator Company and the two registered workers had been responsible for conducting periodic examinations and maintenance on the 45-metre-long escalator at Langham Place in Mong Kok, which suddenly reversed at high speed on March 25, causing dozens of people to tumble down and pile up at the base of the escalator.
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The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department announced on Friday that it had brought prosecutions against the three parties after a criminal investigation found that they had failed to carry out their duties as stated in the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance.
“After seeking legal advice from the Department of Justice, the [department] has decided to bring prosecutions against them,” it said.
Otis and the escalator worker were charged for failing to ensure the periodic maintenance was conducted properly, and the engineer for failing to thoroughly examine the escalator and its associated equipment and machinery.
The case will be heard in Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts on October 27.
A spokeswoman for Otis said the company would “thoroughly review the case and is committed to the legal process in addressing these charges”.
“As always, nothing remains more important to Otis than the safety of our employees, customers and people who rely on our products and services every day,” she said.
She confirmed that the two workers were still employed by Otis.
An investigation report released in June found the escalator’s main drive chain was broken at the time due to metal fatigue, and the device that monitored its operation contained sticky grease formed from lubricant and dust. One of the two compression springs in the device was also found to be locked.
The accumulation of grease and the locked spring led to the failure of the device to activate the auxiliary brake to stop the escalator, the department said.
The escalator then reversed downwards due to the weight of passengers.
The two workers then had their licences suspended for six months.
They were both involved in the last examination of the escalator in January and final routine maintenance in March before the incident happened.
Otis said the two workers had more than 20 years of experience.
Redeveloped from what was known as the Mong Kok Six Streets, Langham Place stands as a flagship redevelopment project and a milestone in Hong Kong’s history of urban renewal.
The project is a joint venture between the Urban Renewal Authority and local developer Great Eagle Holdings.
The mall attracts more than 200,000 visitors each day. It has nearly 200 merchants.