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Press Release - Ombudsman probes regulatory regime for lifts and escalators

16 April 2020

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The Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, today (16 April) declared a direct investigation into the regulatory regime for the safe operation of lifts and escalators administered by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD).

In March 2017, an escalator connecting the fourth and eighth level of Langham Place, Mong Kok suddenly slid backwards at high speed while in operation, causing injuries to 18 passengers. Serious lift accidents then occurred in April and May 2018 respectively at Waterside Plaza in Tsuen Wan and Paris Court of Sheung Shui Town Centre, resulting in one death and two critical injuries. These accidents had aroused wide concern about the safety and repair/maintenance of lifts and escalators. Over the past year, the Office of The Ombudsman has also received several complaints concerning the repair and maintenance of lifts.

The design, installation, maintenance and examination of lifts and escalators in Hong Kong are regulated by the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance (Cap. 618). Under the Ordinance, all lifts and escalators are required to undergo periodic maintenance and examinations by registered contractors and workers. The EMSD conducts random inspections on the maintenance and examination work to monitor compliance. Non-compliant registered contractors and workers are subject to prosecution and disciplinary action.

All new lifts and escalators, including their safety components, must satisfy the prevailing safety standards prescribed by the EMSD at the time of installation. With technological advancements, new components had been integrated into the design of lifts and escalators gradually to improve safety. As at the end of 2017, there were more than 66,000 lifts and 9,300 escalators in Hong Kong. The Ombudsman’s preliminary inquiries found that about 80% of the lifts and 90% of the escalators had not been installed with components that meet the latest safety standards. In addition, around 30% of the lifts and 20% of the escalators were at least 30 years old. Since components of lifts and escalators are susceptible to wear and tear as well as ageing, their safe operation depends on regular and proper maintenance and repairs. Accidents involving lifts and escalators can bring grave consequences. The importance of the EMSD’s monitoring of the examinations and repairs conducted by engineers and technicians cannot be underestimated.

“In Hong Kong, high-rise buildings are everywhere and lifts and escalators are frequently used in our daily lives. Periodic examinations and proper maintenance to ensure their safe operation are of paramount importance. Those serious accidents involving lifts and escalators that have happened in recent years have aroused public concern about the adequacy of the Government’s current regulatory measures. Our Office, therefore, initiates this direct investigation to probe into the issue and identify areas for improvement,” Ms Chiu noted.

The ambit of this direct investigation includes:

(1) the requirements under the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance regarding the maintenance and examination of lifts and escalators;

(2) the adequacy of the EMSD’s monitoring mechanism for the maintenance and examination of lifts and escalators;

(3) the effectiveness of the EMSD’s regulation of registered contractors and relevant technicians; and

(4) any areas for improvement.

The Ombudsman now invites members of the public to give their views on the above topic in writing to the Office of The Ombudsman by 16 May 2020:

Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149
Email: complaints@ombudsman.hk

Office of The Ombudsman

For media enquiries, please contact the External Relations Section at enquiry@ombudsman.hk

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