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Building authority announces new safety regulations for lifts and escalators

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) announced on Friday (July 8) that new safety regulations for lifts and escalators will start on July 25 this year.

Changes to the safety regulations for lifts

The new safety regulations will see a new maintenance regime for public passenger lifts that 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.

BCA added two new maintenance key outcomes to the regulations:

  • To ensure lifts only move when the doors are closed,
  • and that the lift stops within 10mm of the ground.

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.

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.

From July 25, 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.

Changes to the safety regulations for escalators 

Apart from the new maintenance regime, BCA also said that the tightening of the regulatory framework for escalators will take effect from July 25.

From November 1 onwards, all escalator owners must engage an escalator contractor registered with BCA to maintain their escalators monthly according to industry standards. Escalator contractors are being given a "grace period" from now until November 1 to register with BCA so that they can undertake any maintenance or testing under the new regulations.

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,

New safety regulations to clarify maintenance standards for contractors

There are about 59,000 passenger lifts and more than 6,000 escalators in Singapore, according to BCA.

Dr John Keung Kam Yin, Chief Executive Officer of BCA said that there are existing standards governing the maintenance of escalators but the new regime formalises the guidelines. He also 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," said Dr Keung. "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."

This implementation of the new maintenance regime for public passenger lifts and escalators follow the series of lift and escalator mishaps that took place in Singapore.

Lift mishaps

  • Last May, an elderly man using a motorised wheelchair died from a fall when a lift stopped above the ground, causing his wheelchair to topple.
  • In March, a lift shot up 17 storeys, trapping a domestic helper for about 90 minutes.
  • Earlier this month, a 59-year-old woman injured her spine when the lift she was in shot between the first and 12th floor of her block when she was trying to go to the ground floor.

Escalator mishaps

  • In February 2013, Azlin Amran, 31, was left a paraplegic after she fell into a gap on the third step of a descending escalator undergoing maintenance at Tanah Merah MRT station.
  • In August 2015, a 56-year-old lady was holding on to the belt of an upward moving escalator, when it suddenly jerked backwards. Causing the lady to fall back four to five steps before another person at the back broke her fall. She was left with bruises and cuts to her limbs as well as a knock on her forehead.
  • On January 6, a woman barely escaped injury after a step on the escalator she was riding on at The Arcade along Raffles Place, broke.

BCA advises 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.