MND and Town Councils must explain why they took so long to act on lift problems

June 27, 2016
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

The government announced last week that it would set up a “tighter lift maintenance regime” to be in place by July. It is reported that some town councils “are taking no chances” and have stepped up measures to ensure lift safety, including having more checks on the quality of maintenance work.

This initiative comes nine months after an elderly woman’s hand was cut off in a lift accident in October last year. Then, MP for the ward, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, called for safety standards in lifts to be raised and a strong system of auditing for regular checks on lifts by maintenance contractors.

Despite this warning, two more serious major lift malfunctions occurred which could have resulted in serious consequences. One happened in January 2016 when the doors of a lift remained open as the elevator moved. Another took place in March when a the brakes of a lift failed, causing it to shoot up 17 floors.

It wasn’t until March this year that Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong addressed the issue and said that the government would step up checks of lift maintenance. He assured the public that “we want to be thorough in our checks and cannot compromise on safety”.

What took Mr Lawrence Wong half-a-year to announce measures when his PAP colleague had already sounded the alarm in October the year before?

But even after this assurance, little seemed to be done to arrest the problem which resulted in more mishaps. In one incident, an elderly man died while another resulted in a woman fracturing her spine. Several lifts have also either functioned in a dangerous manner or have completely broken down.

Three months after Mr Wong’s assurance, Town Councils belatedly say they are “taking no chances” over lift security. What were these Town Councils doing since March when Minister Wong warned about the lift problems?

Did it take a death and two grievous injuries to occur before they gave the matter their due attention? Did they comply with regulations set out by the BCA? Did any of the Town Councils cut corners and were they negligent in the performance of their duties?

These questions need to be answered and it is necessary that the MND do an audit on Town Councils’ lift-maintenance records and publish a full report. The Ministry must also explain why it took nine months to respond to such a serious development.

John Tan
Vice-Chairman
Singapore Democratic Party