LCQ16: Safety of lifts and escalators in public places and housing estates

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (October 14):


     In recent years, a number of lifts and escalators installed in public places and public housing estates were involved in repeated incidents.  For instance, incidents in which escalators suddenly broke up while in operation occurred at Times Square as well as the MTR Quarry Bay Station and Wong Tai Sin Station in August and September this year respectively.  The newly-installed lifts and escalators at Sha Kok Commercial Complex have broken down frequently, and serious lift incidents have often occurred at Tin Yee House, Tin Cheung House and Tin Hor House of Tin Ping Estate in Sheung Shui over the past two years (including the incidents in July this year in which residents of that Estate were trapped in a lift and a lift was suspected to have plunged).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether, in the past two years, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department stepped up its efforts in monitoring the periodic examinations as well as the repair and maintenance work for lifts and escalators in public places managed by private organisations; if so, of the relevant operational procedures and follow-up measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(2) of the respective percentages of the lifts installed in public housing estates which have now been in use for more than 10 years, 20 years and 30 years; the latest details and progress of the Hong Kong Housing Authority's lift modernisation programme in public housing estates?



     For the escalator incidents that occurred at Times Square, MTR Quarry Bay Station and MTR Wong Tai Sin Station on August 2, September 17 and 20, 2015 respectively, the findings by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) confirmed that these incidents were caused by tiny foreign metal objects caught between the escalators' comb plates and steps.  These objects damaged both the steps and comb plates which, in turn, triggered the safety device that brought the escalators to a halt.  There was no injury in these incidents. As for the failure of two escalators in Sha Kok Commercial Centre at Sha Tin on May 14, 2015, the EMSD's findings revealed that the malfunction was caused by serious ponding underneath the escalators.  A serious leakage from a drainage pipe near the escalators has generated a continuous stream of sewage that pooled under the escalators.  Subsequently, a rainwater pipe inside the ceiling above the escalators burst and rainwater splattered onto the escalators.  As a result of these two incidents, key parts of the escalators were soaked and damaged.  They had to be repaired or completely replaced.  The mechanical failure in these incidents was not caused by poor maintenance.

     There are a total of 18 lifts, aged about 30 years, at Tin Yee House, Tin Cheung House, and Tin Hor House of Tin Ping Estate, Sheung Shui.  Over the past two years, EMSD has received repeated failure notifications about these lifts, which mainly involved lift stoppage or entrapped passengers caused by faulty lift control or signalling system.  In accordance with its risk-based approach, EMSD has stepped up inspections for the lifts at Tin Ping Estate.  It has not found any instance of non-compliance with the code of practice or breach of law by the contractor concerned.  As these lifts have been in service for nearly 30 years, their reliability might be compromised by ageing parts.  As regards the incident involving Lift No. L1 at Tin Ping Estate on July 2, 2015, the findings of the EMSD indicated the lift was stopped by an automatic safety device activated by a fault signal.  The signal was triggered by a bad connection with a locking device of the landing doors during the descent of the lift car at normal speed.  The investigation confirmed that there was no lift plunge and all suspension ropes of the lift were intact. The EMSD has briefed the Owners' Corporation of Tin Ping Estate on its findings.

     My reply to the two parts in the question is as follows:

(1) Lifts and escalators in Hong Kong, including those installed in public places under the management of private organisations, are governed by the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance (Cap. 618) (the Ordinance).  As the enforcement authority of the Ordinance, the EMSD has adopted a risk-based approach in conducting sample checks on lifts and escalators.  This means that the lifts and escalators under complaint, involved in accidents, in service for longer years, or under the maintenance of contractors with poor track records are subject to more stringent inspection.  The EMSD has also stepped up inspections on lifts and escalators under private management in the past two years and conducted around 9 500 and 11 000 inspections in 2013 and 2014 respectively.  A person convicted of an offence under the Ordinance will attract a maximum penalty of a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for 12 months. The EMSD has also implemented the ContractorsíŽ Performance Rating System since 2009 and revised its rating mechanism after a review in January 2014.  Under the system, ratings are derived from inspection results and contractors are accorded performance monitoring points for poor performance or non-compliance with the codes of practice.  The contractors' performance ratings on safety and service quality are presented in the format of a star rating system, which is simple and easy to comprehend.  The rating results are posted onto the EMSD website every three months for easy reference of the public.  Persons responsible for selecting contractors for quality service may also make reference to the rating results.

(2) The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) noted that it has always attached great importance to the safety of lifts and escalators in the public housing estates and shopping centres under its management.  The design, installation, acceptance inspections as well as regular checks and maintenance of these lifts and escalators are also conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Ordinance and its subsidiary regulations, the Code of Practice on the Design and Construction of Lifts and Escalators and the Code of Practice for Lift Works and Escalator Works issued by the EMSD, and the relevant technical guidelines. The HA has also followed the requirements of the Ordinance, regulations and relevant codes of practice in engaging registered contractors for the maintenance and repair works of lifts and escalators to ensure safety and reliability.

     There is a total of 5 268 lifts in the public housing estates and shopping centres under the HA management.  The age distribution of these lifts is as follows:

Age    10 years     Over 10     Over 20     Over
       and          years to    years to    30 years
       below        20 years    30 years    
---    ---------    ---------   ----------  --------

No. of  1 585        2 166       1 023       494

     In addition to the mandatory inspections, maintenance and repair works required under the Ordinance, the relevant regulations and codes of practice, the HA has implemented an on-going lift modernisation programme for lifts in public housing estates to further enhance their safety, efficiency, reliability and comfort.  Under the programme, the HA would review the condition of lifts that have been in service for over 25 years, set replacement priorities and undertake the replacement work according to schedule.  Having replaced over 500 lifts in the past five years, the HA plans to replace about 60 to 70 lifts each year on average in the coming years. The HA will continue to conduct regular reviews of lift conditions and monitor the progress of the modernisation programme so as to ensure lift safety and reliability.

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:40