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社評雙語道:The Ticking Time Bomb : Aged Lifts舊升降機成計時炸彈


■ Jeffrey Tse[ywc_jeffrey@hotmail.com]






本港舊電梯安全問題日益累積,機電署應將舊電梯的監管作為特別事項,單列處理,考慮制定分類分級的監管,從嚴監控電梯質素、提高檢查人員水準,對於某些實在太陳舊、保養成本太高的電梯,政府應考慮立法規定強制更換。更換電梯難免涉及昂貴費用,對住戶構成經濟壓力。但人命關天,政府可仿傚驗樓計劃,提供免息貸款等資助,協助市民更換存在安全隱患的舊電梯,消除重大安全隱患,防範舊電梯安全事故一再重演。 (標題為編輯所加)



A freak accident involving a 27-year-old elevator at the Waterside Plaza in Tsuen Wan has left a couple seriously injured on 8 April. The accident has shown that mechanical safety of old lifts in Hong Kong cannot be taken for granted, and could become a ticking time bomb if it is not properly addressed. The government should conduct a comprehensive review on the current elevator safety control measures,tighten examination on aged lifts, and even consider imposing a deadline on the total replacement of such lifts. For the safety of the public, the government should allocate additional resources to subsidise old lifts replacement.

The elevator in question, being in operation since 1991, has just passed its annual check in January 2018, yet the inspection still failed to prevent the recent mishap.Residents at Waterside Plaza have also revealed a worrying truth that the lift involved had been faulty from time to time over the past years. Immediately after the accident, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) has ordered contractors to carry out comprehensive checks on all other lifts of the same brand in two weeks'time, which would be followed by the department's own random inspections around the city. Despite the government's prompt action, it is now conspicuous that the mechanical safety of old elevators requires more than standard procedures and routine checks.

According to the EMSD, there are approximately 60,000 elevators and some 9,000 escalators in Hong Kong, many of which have been in operation for decades. The EMSD currently conducts around 10,000 site inspections on lifts and escalators per year. Yet, their work does not include extra measures on old elevators, and still there is not enough manpower to carry out all the checks, with only 5,400 registered lift workers and about 340 registered lift engineers. The government has been endeavouring to tackle the manpower issue, and the average workload of a two-men team has reduced from 24.6 lifts/escalators in 2012 to 20.7 in 2016. However, the ensuing increase in the demand for skilled workers and engineers from local housing development is set to further stretch the already tight manpower situation.

With the number of high-rises in Hong Kong, elevators and escalators have already become a part of the urban living. As time goes by, the number of old elevators are bound to increase, and therefore the safety of old lifts has become one of the most pressing issues. For some of the outmoded or even discontinued elevator models,will there be a sufficient supply of maintenance parts? Should a special regime of inspection and maintenance be devised so that the safety requirements on old elevators could be tightened? These are some of the questions that the government should look into closely.

As safety concerns on old lifts grow, the EMSD should separate aged elevators from the regular control regime and consider devising a new tiered scheme whereby examinations and control could be tightened. For those elevators that are obsolete and too expensive to maintain, the government should consider forcing their total replacement by legislative means. No doubt the replacement of out moded elevators would cost home owners a fortune. Given that public safety is paramount, the government could draw experience from the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme and offer interest-free loans to home owners. Similar accidents could be prevented in the future when this underlying threat is eliminated.