Lift mishap: Tighter rules soon, but scant comfort for family who lost dad

A family gathering with the late Mr Lim Hang Chiang and his wife Madam Kwek Sar Moi (centre) during Chinese New Year.
PHOTO: MR LIM KENG SWEE

One month ago, his 77-year-old father died in an accident after a lift malfunctioned at his block.

Mr Lim Keng Swee, 45, the youngest son, is still looking for closure over his father's death, which happened just four days shy of his 78th birthday.

Mr Lim said he has been frustrated that there has been no answer so far as to why the lift malfunctioned that day.

His father, Mr Lim Hang Chiang, had toppled out of his mobility scooter as he reversed, suffering fatal head injuries on May 16.

The elder Mr Lim had been trying to get out of the lift at Block 247, Pasir Ris Street 21, but the lift was 15cm higher than the floor, so the scooter toppled over.

Related: Man dies after falling on his head in lift mishap

A frustrated Mr Lim said that he was told at his father's wake that the authorities would give him a report about the case by the end of May, but he has yet to receive it.

"I just want some answers, why are they taking so long, and why don't we have displays of when the lifts are last serviced? It just makes me wonder."

Mr Lim, who works in the construction industry, said when he was interviewed during the investigation, he asked the investigators about the frequency of lift maintenance and the person-in-charge of overseeing lift maintenance.

Separately, he has wondered whether the lift uses original parts or third-party parts.

The answer to one of his questions - regarding the person in charge of overseeing lift maintenance - will be displayed in all lifts under BCA's new Permit-to-Operate System, which was introduced yesterday and may be implemented as early as next month.

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NEW MEASURES

This requires all owners to display the permit in the lift, indicating the lift contractor responsible for maintenance and the name of the Authorised Examiner (AE) who inspected and certified the lift.

Mr Lim also wants to know the criteria that Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council uses to ensure that the lift is properly maintained.

Under BCA's new measures, outcome-based maintenance will provide more specific criteria and checklists for lift maintenance works.

(See report below.)

In the meantime, his family has been mourning the loss of the elder Mr Lim, who was in hospital on the day of his family's planned birthday celebration for him.

Things have not been the same at home, said his son.

"I just feel this emptiness in my heart. I am still trying to cope with the loss of my father."

His mother, Madam Kwek Sar Moi, 77, chose to move out from the bedroom that she has shared with her husband to another room in the flat, because she finds staying in the room a painful reminder.

Granddaughter Angelina Lim, six, still asks for her grandfather, saying: "Ah gong go where?".

Mr Lim said his family, comprising older brother Lim Keng Meng, 51, and older sister Lim Lee Meng, 50, as well as his widowed mother, has not been the same since the incident.

He said: "My mother looks okay on the surface, but I don't really think that she's okay. Her husband is gone."

Current versus new requirements

MAINTENANCE

CURRENT REQUIREMENTS

  • Lift equipment, including settings and adjustments, should be inspected and should function properly.
  • Lift car doors and lift landing doors must be operational at all times and reopen upon activation of door protective devices.
  • Lift equipment must be lubricated and cleaned.

* These requirements are for compliance with Singapore Standard 550 (SS 550).

NEW REQUIREMENTS

  • The emergency power supply for lift car lighting and ventilation fans must remain functioning when normal power supply to the lift car is disrupted.
  • Brakes or lift parts should not contain any oil or grease contamination.
  • Sufficient oil in the buffer - in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendation, as indicated by the oil level gauge.
  • For every non-compliance of the regulations, the lift contractor, if convicted, could face a fine of up to $5,000.

INTRODUCTION OF A PERMIT-TO-OPERATE SYSTEM

CURRENT REQUIREMENTS:

  • All lift owners are required to engage an Authorised Examiner (AE) to conduct a full commissioning inspection and tests to ensure compliance with the Singapore Standard 550 (SS 550).
  • A Certificate of Lift Maintenance and Testing will be issued by the AE to the lift owners and it is valid for a period of one year.

NEW REQUIREMENTS:

  • Under the new Permit-to-Operate (PTO) System, in addition to the current checks and certifications done by AEs, every lift will require a permit to be issued by BCA before it can be operated. Audit checks will be carried out by BCA.
  • The permit also has to be renewed annually, with certification done by an independent AE.
  • For greater transparency and accountability, BCA also reinstated the display of information within the lift.
  • The new permit, which replaces the old certificate, will indicate the lift contractor responsible for maintenance and the name of the AE who inspected and certified the lift

Expert: New measures will improve safety

Dr John Keung, Building and Construction Authority (BCA) chief executive officer, said BCA takes a serious view of lift safety.

"We have been engaging the industry and reviewing the lift regulations over the past year, and are ready to make these changes. We will continue to update and implement new measures to enhance lift safety in the short and longer term," he said.

Mr Ng Wee Keong, the head of Operations and Technical Services Division of Mitsubishi Elevator (Singapore), said the new measures by the BCA "will improve lift safety for the whole industry and provide better safety to users".

Mr Ng said the current inspection measures are outcome-based, but the new measures help to make the requirements even more specific.

He said a potential hurdle of the Permit-to-Operate System is the amount of paperwork and manpower needed to install the permits and the resources needed for the audit checks.

He added that the reintroduction of the display of permits in the lifts will help passengers to "feel more safe and assured".

RECENT LIFT ACCIDENTS

WHEN: June 11, 2016

WHERE: 15th level of Block 299A, Compassvale Street

AGE OF LIFT: About 15 years

BRAND OF LIFT: LG

LIFT MAINTAINED BY: Sigma

WHAT HAPPENED: Mr Tan Joo Jin, 45, entered the lift on the 15th level.

Later, five others entered the lift on the eighth floor.

The lift then suddenly jerked and stopped between levels three and four for a few seconds.

It suddenly shot downwards and stopped between levels 2 and 3 before landing hard on the ground floor.

LIFT LAST MAINTAINED: A spokesman for the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council said due to investigations it will not reveal when the lift was last maintained.

It however said that it last sent a lift engineer and contractor to test the lift last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, after reports were first made by residents last Friday regarding the faulty lift.

On Monday morning, they tested the lift again and experienced a jerk.

The lift stopped for a while and continued to move again.

The Town Council is now trouble-shooting and trying to trace and fix the fault.

They are also investigating all other lifts with similar feedback from residents as a precautionary measure.

WHEN: May 16, 2016

WHERE: Block 247, Pasir Ris Street 21

AGE OF LIFT: About 24 years

BRAND OF LIFT: Fujitec

LIFT MAINTAINED BY: Fujitec

LIFT LAST MAINTAINED: Essential Maintenance Service Unit indicates servicing period as May 15 to June 20 but it is not clear if it has been inspected.

WHAT HAPPENED: Mr Lim Hang Chiang, 77, died after he fell from his mobility scooter and hit his head while reversing out of the lift exiting the lift backwards.

There was a 15cm height difference between the lift and the floor, which caused his scooter to topple.

Mr Lim Keng Swee, 45, son of the deceased Mr Lim Hang Chiang told TNP: "It has been about a month since my father died.

"They said they'll investigate the reason behind the lift malfunction but they have not got back to me."

vivlmy@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 17, 2016.
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