Deaths prompt concerns over elevator safety

Updated: 2013-05-17 01:35

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Safety experts have warned of more elevator and escalator accidents if problems in the industry are not solved.

Their comments come after two tragedies in three days.

A 24-year-old woman in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, was killed on Wednesday when she was about to step out of an elevator.

The elevator doors closed on her head and wouldn't open, leaving her stuck between the doors, according to the administration of work safety of Luohu district. It then continued its descent.

"The woman was concentrating on her cellphone, so she didn't see the doors were closing," said Liu Zhuo, who was also in the elevator and works for a computer software company in the building.

The woman, surnamed Wang, was an intern at a hospital and a native of Shanxi province.

The findings of the accident investigation were not available on Thursday. The property management company said the building's four elevators had undergone maintenance just three days before the accident.

"Closing doors will open when they hit people, and a normal elevator will go up and down only after the doors are fully shut and the circuit is closed," said Xu Ronggen, secretary-general of Beijing Chamber of Elevator Commerce.

Another woman was killed riding an escalator with one step missing in a supermarket in Yichang, Hubei province, on Tuesday.

There were 36 elevator and escalator accidents in 2012, claiming 28 lives, according to the country's top quality supervisor.

Poor and inadequate maintenance was the cause of up to 80 percent of the accidents, experts said.

"Regular maintenance costs about 10,000 yuan ($1,600), but some companies charge only a third of that, which is not enough for the cost of a conscientious upkeep," Xu said.

"It couldn't be more important to have a stricter assessment of manufacturers and maintenance businesses in the elevator industry. Otherwise it won't be surprising if there are more fatal accidents."

China requires all elevators and escalators to undergo checkups and adjustment every 15 days, and more than 20 items are included.

According to insiders, more than 5,000 businesses install and maintain elevators and escalators in China, but the qualifications of most maintainence providers are questionable.

"Most of them are migrant workers with insufficient training, and most took the jobs because they couldn't earn enough in their normal line of work," said Wang Shigui, general manager of Beijing Urban Construction Huiyou Installation Engineering, which intalls and provides maintenance service for elevators.

"It's easy to obtain a certificate for these companies, although some only have several temporary, affiliated workers."

A Shanghai Yueling Elevator maintenance worker who asked to be identified as Ni said they do not muddle through their work. Poor quality elevators and inappropriate use by passengers should be blamed sometimes.

"We found small stones in the shaft left by people using elevators to transport materials decorating their apartments. These particles will definitely affect the work of elevators," Ni said.

"It's common to see people hold the elevator for people for a long time or even keep the doors open with a brick. These habits should be eliminated for safety."