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Tougher rules on lift upkeep from next month

SINGAPORE — More stringent lift maintenance standards will kick in next month, announced the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) on Thursday (June 16), after it found that overall standards “can be further improved” in the wake of a series of recent high-profile accidents in public housing estates.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament that eight main lift contractors maintain about  70 per cent of Singapore’s lifts. TODAY file photo

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told Parliament that eight main lift contractors maintain about 70 per cent of Singapore’s lifts. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — More stringent lift maintenance standards will kick in next month, announced the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) on Thursday (June 16), after it found that overall standards “can be further improved” in the wake of a series of recent high-profile accidents in public housing estates.

Lift owners and contractors will be held to specific requirements, such as ensuring that lift car doors and lift landing doors are operational at all times, and brakes or lift parts are not contaminated by oil or grease.

In contrast, the current requirements are generic, such as ensuring lift equipment “should be inspected and should function properly”, or that these must be “lubricated and cleaned”.

To “strengthen oversight”, the BCA will also require lift owners to obtain a permit from it before lifts can be operated. This renewable-yearly permit will be issued after checks and certifications done by independent authorised examiners, as is the current practice.

Kicking in during the second half of next year, this new system also requires lift owners to display the permit in the lift, which must state the lift contractor responsible for maintenance, and the name of the authorised examiner who inspected and certified the lift.

Both the new measures entail audit checks by the BCA.

In a press release on Thursday, the authority said the audit checks it carries out currently indicate that most of the 59,000 passenger lifts in Singapore are “in good condition and safe to operate”.

“However, BCA’s investigations into recent lift incidents revealed that the overall standard of maintenance by lift contractors can be further improved,” it said. “It is critical to uphold high standards of maintenance as the lifts get older, and are subject to more wear and tear over time.”

The authority also urged lift owners and contractors to continue undertaking “preventive maintenance”, and to take all users’ feedback seriously by attending to any issues promptly.

There has been a spate of high-profile lift incidents involving serious injuries and even death in recent months. These incidents involved lift cars moving up and down erratically, or coming to a stop at a gap from the ground, among others.

In a March accident in Ang Mo Kio where a lift suddenly shot up 17 floors, for instance, the cause had been pinned on malfunctioning brakes — possibly due to jammed mechanical parts, an oily brake drum and worn-off brake liners.

Marine Parade Town Council chairman Lim Biow Chuan welcomed the BCA’s enhanced role. 

“I had felt that more can be done to lift the standards of lift maintenance and operations, and BCA coming in will provide closer monitoring of the lifts, and provide the powers to enforce,” he said.   

Chua Chu Kang Town Council chairman Zaqy Mohamad noted: “For us town councils, we can only terminate the contract (if something happens), but BCA can now set the standards and enforce them. It will also send a signal to the lift companies, and give more assurance to the public regardless whether they are staying in public or private estates.” 

Lift contractors interviewed said each company already typically practises outcome-based maintenance, although there is no standardised checklist.

But with the BCA spelling out the requirements, Mr Ng Wee Keong, head of Operations and Technical Services at Mitsubishi Elevator, noted that it holds all contractors accountable to a common benchmark.

“It will create awareness on what needs to be done ... there will be no more excuses in future, and this also allows us to update our own checklist if necessary,” he added.

Ms Tracy Goh, whose mother suffered a spine fracture after a lift incident last week, felt the changes would mean more thorough checks. In the past, residents do not know which parts of the lift are being maintained, she added. 

Mr Lim Keng Swee, whose father died last month after falling backwards and hitting his head on the ground when he reversed his motorised scooter out of a lift car that stopped 15cm above ground level, felt that more needed to be done to improve emergency response measures, such as installing intercoms in all lifts so that those trapped can seek help expeditiously.

Meanwhile, the BCA said it will look into building up the talent pool for lift maintenance, from technicians to professional engineers. Details of new measures, including training programmes, will be announced when ready.

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BCA lift maintenance

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