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Need a lift?

Published: 23/12/13

It’s not difficult to see why some people have a phobia about using lifts, but Zurich tells us that in reality they are usually extremely reliable. And given that lifts and lifting equipment are the most common items examined by Zurich as part of its market-leading plant and machinery inspection service, they should know.

“Of the 2.5 million inspections we carry out each year, about 70% of our book is lifts and lifting gear, which would also include other high-risk equipment such as escalators and window cleaner systems,” said John McMullen, Chief Engineer at Zurich Engineering.

“Our statutory inspections make sure that the maintenance of the lift is adequate. We usually undertake around 250,000 lift inspections per year and generally find defects on over 12% of our inspections, which may not sound like much but it equates to around 30,000 lift defects every year, of which more than 5,000 are of a serious nature that would have harmed people.”

Status alert!

Any lift problem would be highlighted by a status report - either a ‘B’ defect or an ‘A’ defect.

The ‘B’ defect is where due to failure, damage or deterioration, a component or system is compromised. There is no immediate danger to people; however, further deterioration could escalate the problem to a situation where it may become so. Zurich expects that this defect is repaired as soon as is practically possible.

Examples of ‘A’ and ‘B’ defects

‘A’ defects

  • Problems where the ropes stretch and the pre-set ‘runby’ distances are compromised.
  • Safety gear defective, or worn.
  • Suspension ropes worn, corroded or the terminations compromised.
  • The brake damaged or defective.
  • Landing doors and/or locks damaged or defective.

‘B’ defects

  • The landing levelling accuracy is poor, although depending on the situation this could be an ‘A’ defect.
  • Shaft lighting defective or inadequate.
  • Car alarm defective, or communication system defective.
  • Landing door air cords worn
  • Parts worn, corroded or damaged.

“When you find a lift rope that is worn badly or the safety gear is not working – these are the sort of things where we would take a lift out of service right away as these issues can pose an imminent danger or foreseeable risk to people,” said John. “And people do get hurt and die in lifts.”

John added: “I would say that our biggest problem is repeated defects, where for whatever reason the defects are not repaired in a timely manner.

Is this a problem with the maintainers or the client? When we are confronted with defects that you would assume are part of the maintenance it makes you wonder. An example of this is litter in lift pits, poor housekeeping, worn pulleys, belts, loose nuts and bolts, and low oil levels.”

Regular inspection

Legislation states that lifts need to be adequately maintained and inspected every six months and the benefits of keeping up a good maintenance regime are obvious.

“If you attend to your defects, then nobody is likely to get hurt,” said John. “If not, and someone gets hurt, there could be untold claims and insurance issues for people to deal with.

“And it is not just lifts cascading to the bottom of the lift shaft. We find some lifts that don’t level out, they can become a tripping hazard, the doors don’t open properly or they open too quickly and people can get different parts of their anatomy caught.

“All in all, it is a high-risk piece of kit that really is worth maintaining to a high standard.”

John added: “And if you are seeing a lot of ‘A’ defects getting through and the maintenance is adequate, it may mean that the lift is not fit for purpose and may need changing for something that is. Some older lifts have been in service now for 50-60 years.”

Make sure you know how to get in touch with your employer if you are unable to get into work and that you have a means of communicating with them if you are going to be delayed.

Five most common types of lift defect

  • Traction lift. Problems where the ropes stretch and the pre-set ‘runby’ distances are compromised.
  • The landing levelling accuracy is poor, causing a tripping hazard when entering or leaving the car.
  • Shaft lighting defective or inadequate. Poor lighting in a working environment.
  • Car alarm defective, or communication system defective.
  • Loose nuts, bolts, fixtures and fittings.

Flint has access to a number of engineering and plant inspection guides, so if you need help or other risk management advice please contact the commercial team on 0845 371 1452 at any time.


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