SINGAPORE: New safety regulations for lifts and escalators will kick in on Jul 25, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) announced on Friday (Jul 8).
Alongside a revised lift regulatory regime announced last month, the regulatory framework for escalators has been tightened to enhance escalator reliability and safety, the authority said.
The new maintenance regime for public passenger lifts includes 20 maintenance requirements tied to key outcomes.
Most of these - 18 out of 20 - are already in current legislation. These include checking for oil or grease contamination on lift parts such as brakes that will decrease their performance or render them ineffective, and checking that ropes are properly and equally tensioned with no sign of excessive wear and tear.
However, BCA has added two new maintenance outcomes because the authority "saw that they could cause problems", chief executive officer John Keung said. The additional items are to ensure lifts only move when the doors are closed, and that the lift stops within 10mm of the ground.
BCA will step up audit checks on lifts to ensure the registered lift contractors that carry out the maintenance of public passenger lifts achieve these outcomes.
Those who do not meet the requirements may be prosecuted and fined up to S$5,000 if convicted, or may be issued notices to maintain or suspend the lifts, it added.
Lift owners will be required to display an annually-renewed "Permit to Operate" (PTO) issued by BCA - indicating the lift contractor responsible for maintenance and the name of the authorised examiner who inspected and certified the lift - starting in the second half of 2017.
Similarly, the lift owner and registered lift contractor who carried out the most recent servicing work on the lift will also have to inform BCA as soon as possible, when there is an incident involving death or injury to passengers, or if a malfunction of critical safety components occurs.
"Upon notification, BCA will investigate the incident and may direct the registered lift contractor or the lift owner to engage an independent authorised examiner to determine the cause of the incident," the authority said.
Dr Keung said it was important that investigations be done not just by authorised examiners but also by the authority's in-house lift engineers as there are different reasons for incidents happening.
"We think most of our lifts and escalators are in working condition but there is room for improvement in maintenance," he said.
There has been a spate of incidents involving lift malfunctions in Singapore this year. Last month, a 59-year-old woman injured her spine when the lift she was taking shot between the first and 12th floor of her block. In May, an elderly man using a motorised wheelchair died from a fall when a lift stopped above ground level, causing his wheelchair to topple, and in March, a lift shot up 17 storeys, trapping a domestic helper for about 90 minutes.
ESCALATOR CONTRACTORS MUST BE REGISTERED BY NOV 1
The tightening of the regulatory framework for escalators also takes effect from Jul 25, BCA said.
Currently, the design and installation of escalators, which must comply with relevant standards and codes, are certified by a professional engineer and building owners are expected to maintain the escalators monthly.
From Nov 1 onwards, all escalator owners must engage an escalator contractor registered with BCA to maintain their escalators monthly according to industry standards.
Escalator contractors have a "grace period" of until Nov 1 to register with BCA before they can undertake any maintenance or testing under the new regulations.
The new regulations list ten specific maintenance outcomes - including checking the safety switches and sensors, handrail system and emergency stop switch of the escalators - that the contractors have to comply with in addition to the existing standards and codes.
Aside from the monthly maintenance, escalators will also have to be inspected and tested by an independent authorised examiner annually, after which the escalator owner must apply for a new PTO issued by BCA.
The deadline for escalator owners to obtain the PTO will be done in five phases from January 2017 to January 2018 based on the date that the building was certified as completed. The first phase, which applies to owners of buildings that received certification before May 1, 1989, has a PTO deadline of Jan 31, 2017. Escalator owners must display their PTOs prominently and conspicuously at or near the escalator from May 1, 2018, BCA said.
Under the new regime, escalator owners will be required to keep maintenance records for a period of at least five years and make them available for BCA’s inspection when required, the authority said.
From Jul 25 onwards, when an incident involving any death or injuries to passengers, or a malfunction of safety critical components occurs, both the escalator owner and the registered escalator contractor who carried out the most recent servicing work on the escalator must inform BCA as soon as possible.
There are existing standards governing the maintenance of escalators but the new regime formalises the guidelines, Dr Keung said.
"Today there are standards for maintenance but they are not clear enough. What we are doing now is making it clearer so contractors know what to look out for."
Escalator safety was thrown into the spotlight internationally in July last year when a woman in China was killed after she plunged through flooring over an escalator in a Chinese department store. More recently in Singapore, an escalator step at The Arcade at Raffles Place broke into several pieces in January.
"BCA WILL NOT STOP HERE": CEO
There are about 59,000 passenger lifts and more than 6,000 escalators in Singapore, according to BCA.
Dr Keung said it is "imperative" that it continually reviews the regulatory requirements of lifts and escalators to enhance their safety, given how widely they are used in Singapore.
“BCA will not stop here," Dr Keung said, adding that the next phase of the review will involve working with international experts and the industry to roll out more measures for a "more robust system" for lift and escalator safety in Singapore.
"We hope that the overall maintenance standards of lifts and escalators will improve through the tightening of the maintenance regime.”
BCA will also look into building up industry capability throughout the entire supply chain to ensure that the industry has the necessary resources and capabilities to meet the new regulatory requirements, the authority said.
Aside from tightening the regulations, BCA has also been educating the public by putting up posters, Dr Keung said.
"Other than BCA being a regulator, the user also has a responsibility. We will do something quite similar for escalators soon. "
BCA advised lift and escalator users to report any lift or escalator faults immediately to the respective owners. Lift and escalator owners including Town Councils should, in turn, take public feedback seriously and instruct their respective contractors to attend to any issues promptly, the authority said.