Confessions of a lift technician

Confessions of a lift technician
Mr Kamalluden Azeez, 53, has been a lift technician for 25 years.
PHOTO: The New Paper

The effort he puts into his job is often under-appreciated.

Mr Kamalluden Azeez, 53, has been a lift technician with Hitachi Maintenance for 25 years.

He is one of the 120 Hitachi Maintenance technicians who attend to calls about breakdowns, assess the condition of the lifts, troubleshoot and conduct minor repairs.

There are 5,016 lifts under Hitachi Maintenance across the island.

Mr Kamalluden puts himself at risk of falling down the elevator shaft, getting electrocuted and getting injured by sharp parts each day he is at work.

But the public often do not recognise a lift technician's hard work, he told The New Paper.

"We are working in an enclosed space, so people cannot see the effort we put in. Sometimes, they get frustrated and complain that our lifts always break down when we close one off," he said.

"But we are actually inside, working hard to service the lift."

He recalled an incident when he was scolded by a woman after rescuing her from a lift that had malfunctioned.

She complained about the quality of the lift, and blamed it on the technicians. Mr Kamalluden was hurt by her comments, but he took them in his stride.

Hitachi Maintenance has a 24-hour standby team of 14 lift technicians who attend to urgent matters, such as cases of people being trapped in lifts.

If there are off-duty lift technicians nearby, they will be called to attend to the situation.

Last Thursday, the Ministry of National Development announced grants of more than $63 million for town councils to ensure that their lifts are well-maintained and replaced on time.

With that, Mr Kamalluden feels that his job has become more important.

He was working at a petrol kiosk in Commonwealth before becoming a lift technician.

He met many Hitachi workers at the petrol kiosk, and was asked by one of them if he would like to work as a lift technician.

"I thought 'Why not?', went for an interview and got the job. I have been with Hitachi ever since," Mr Kamalluden said.

He was qualified as he had studied mechanical engineering.

"I had a phobia of heights at first, and it took me six months to get over it," he said.

"On my first day, my supervisor instructed me to stand on the cage top, which is located on top of the lift, and said I have to get used to it.

"Over time, I learnt to never look down."

During maintenance, there will be a lift technician on the cage top, another inside the lift and a third inside the motor room, which consists of the control panel and traction machine, located at the top of the building.

The lift will start descending from the top of the building and work its way down at a "maintenance speed" of 15 metres per minute, stopping at each storey to allow the technicians to check if everything is working properly.

There is a shelter plate at each storey that recognises if the lift is in line with the floor level.

It has sharp edges, and Mr Kamalluden said there is a risk of accidentally bumping into it.

Fortunately, he has never had an accident in his 25 years at work.

"Before we start work, the team will have a discussion to plan the safety precautions we will take," he said.

"For example, when we are changing electric parts, the first thing we have to do is turn off the main electricity supply to prevent electrocution.

"Or when we are handling moving parts, such as the rotating devices that pull the cage, we have to turn off the electricity supply. If not, our fingers may get crushed."

He said communication is key - the team has to do a three-point call before making any moves.

"When we want to move the cage, I have to say 'move'. The other technicians have to repeat it to acknowledge the command before moving. If not, it may lead to the death or an injury of someone," he said.

This article was first published on February 6, 2017.
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