Under the HDB’s Lift Enhancement Programme (LEP), 3,231 lifts under the 15 People’s Action Party (PAP) town councils’ management will get important safety upgrades, such as emergency communications system and lift speed monitoring sensors, in the coming months.
Announced in a joint statement by PAP town councils, this is the second round of safety upgrades for its lifts. The first, already-completed round of works started in January 2019, and involved the upgrading of 1,200 lifts within PAP town councils.
The upgrades are carried out as part of HDB’s 10-year, $450 million plan to enhance more than 18,500 lifts in HDB estates. Under the LEP, the HDB will fund about 90% of the town council’s costs to install added safety and reliability features.
The added features will bring HDB lifts into compliance with safety and efficiency standards set by the Buildings and Construction Authority (BCA). (In the past decade, the safety of HDB lifts has come under scrutiny after a string of accidents. See ‘A timeline of past HDB accidents’ below.)
Majority of lifts fall under PAP town councils’ management
Of the 18,500 HDB lifts, 17,000 are managed by PAP town councils. To date, PAP town councils have awarded a combined $107 million worth of contracts for the two batches of lift enhancement works.
The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), which is run by the Workers’ Party, manages the remaining 1,500 lifts. Responding to a query by The Straits Times, AHTC revealed that 180 lifts under its purview will be upgraded with better safety measures over the next 15 months.
Previously in 2016, AHTC announced that it would “progressively schedule lifts nearing the 15-year mark of their lifespan for enhancement” in accordance with the LEP.
Here are the safety upgrades that upgraded HDB lifts will have, and the uses for each:
• Ascending car over-speed protection (to monitor and reduce lift speed)
• Unintended car movement protection (to guard against failure of lift components)
• Slacken governor rope electrical safety device, (to initiate a stop when necessary)
• Car apron (to reduce the risk of people at the lift landing falling into the lift shaft)
• Light curtain sensors (to enable better detection of objects between lift doors)
• Electrical safety interlocking for multiple-panel doors (to ensure lifts will remain in place when doors are open)
• Emergency communications system (to connect to a person for help in an emergency, instead of merely ringing an alarm)
The LEP, which started in 2018, is meant for lifts that are less than 18 years old. Older lifts that do not qualify for the scheme may be replaced under a different scheme called the Selective Lift Replacement Programme (SLRP).
Another initiative to install lift surveillance systems for more than 23,000 lifts, including in opposition-wards, is nearing completion. The system will help to deter vandals, according to the HDB.
A timeline of past HDB lift accidents
At Block 805 Chai Chee Road, a 28-year-old Bangladeshi worker was killed when lift he was performing upgrading works on suddenly fell from the 5th floor to the ground floor.
A woman tore a ligament in her leg after a lift she and her family members were in fell from the fourth floor to the ground floor. The victim’s brother had been pulled back by his brother-in-law from exiting the lift, because there was a loud snapping sound from above. The lift door then closed. Within one to two seconds, the lift plunged to the ground floor.
A 10-year old girl needed five stitches on her foot after parts of the lift ceiling collapsed onto her. This happened at Block 325A Sengkang East Way. Investigations by Ang Mo Kio Town Council revealed that the incident could have been caused by an improperly secured light diffuser holder. The parents, who were with the girl, had noticed a long metal rod on the floor when they entered the lift with the girl. The mother suffered a small cut on her right arm.
At Block 150 Petir Road in Bukit Panjang, a 59-year-old part-time cleaner was descending from the 9th floor to the ground floor when the lift suddenly lurched up to the 11th floor, dropped to the 3rd, then shot up to the 12th. She hurt her spine in the incident and was sent to the hospital before being discharged the next day.
At Block 247 Pasir Ris Street 21, wheelchair-bound 77-year-old died when he reversed out of a malfunctioning lift that had stopped at a level 15cm higher than the ground floor. Not knowing about the gap, the man fell backwards in his wheelchair and sustained a fatal head injury.
A lift at Block 317 Ang Mo Kio Street 31 suddenly shot up 17 storeys to the top floor, causing a 36-year-old Indonesian domestic worker to fall and hurt her back. The lift then stalled, trapping her inside for 1.5 hours before she was rescued. Investigation revealed that the lift brakes were faulty.
Madam Khoo Bee Hua, an elderly woman in her 80s, had her hand severed by a HDB lift at Block 322 Tah Ching Road in Jurong when returning home from walking her dog. She had stuck her left hand out while waiting for her dog to enter the lift, when the lift doors closed and the lift began moving up. Residents said that both lifts at the block have been giving problems for at least six months.
At an HDB block in Bukit Batok Central, a golden retriever was choked to death by the lift. The owner was holding onto the dog’s leash inside the lift, with the dog still outside when the doors closed . The lift started moving up with the dog still outside and stopped at the third storey. The poor dog was found dead and still attached to the leash, hanging from the top of the lift door at the ground level.
A couple were in a lift at a six-storey HDB carpark at Block 54, Chin Swee Road, when it suddenly plunged, causing the husband to fracture his right leg and requiring an operation. After an investigation, the town council said the lift had “overran the level”.
At a Bukit Panjang HDB block, a lift ceiling panel collapsed on two children. Luckily, they suffered no serious injuries other than redness on the back of their necks.
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