For any high rise building, lifts are essential tools that save time and effort. But the reality is that very little thought goes into maintaining them on a regular basis. There are multiple recorded incidents of lifts in continued states of disrepair, ultimately leading to injury and death.
With a very low rate of replacement, these mechanical objects require frequent attention and care for up to 10 or 15 years before they are considered for retirement. With over 2700 individual parts, there's a significant number of things to focus on, with the major components being inside the machine room, lift shaft, lift pit, lift car and more. Big lift importers can charge up to Tk 3000 for the maintenance of a 6-by-6 lift. While the maintenance schedule can involve up to 70 different tasks, many buildings choose to go with less professional maintenance teams that do half the work for a significantly reduced cost. The lack of technical knowledge on the part of building owners and associations leads to an asymmetry of information that leaves the lift owners cheated by unprofessional, often untrained people.
“Unfortunately Bangladesh does not have any association for lift businesses. We have no regulatory body which is resulting in a lot of briefcase companies. Most Bangladeshi lift buyers do not care much about the safety of their lifts and they do not have sound knowledge about lifts/escalators in general, which leads to major problems later on,” says Sanjana Mustafa, Director, BD Lift Ltd.
Having a regulatory body would go a long way in ensuring proper inspection teams. With a proper framework enforced by a central body, the inspection process can ensure that correct procedure is followed during maintenance. The body can also determine the quality of lifts being imported and provide valuable communication to buyers, and thus reducing the information gap in the market.
Training is also crucial to ensure proper operation and maintenance. One of the main reasons cited for the death of nine-year old Alvira Rahman in Dhaka's Shantinagar in late-March was a faulty motion sensor that could not detect the child before closing the doors. With proper training, any lift operator could have identified the issue beforehand. Many lift operators maintain 24 hour call centres that can provide professional assistance in case of an emergency.
“Our maintenance operations are divided into zones, with each zone having a certain number of engineers who are assigned to those specific zones. These engineers can reach a site within half an hour and perform diagnostics as necessary. However, we have seen that some building owners are inclined to finding cheaper options when it comes to lift maintenance, and often employ sub-par technicians to diagnose problems in an effort to save on cost,” says Mustufa Hasan Mahmud, Head of Marketing, Maan Bangladesh Ltd, a lift supplier.
He goes on to add that there are some lift importers who are importing sub-standard lifts without any ISO/OHSAS/TUV & CE certification and are beating importers of top-tier lift manufacturers by selling lifts without all of the necessary safety devices installed. “This is becoming a huge problem for us, as our customers assume they are being cheated even though they do not understand the technical specifications before going with the cheaper option.”
According to both Sanjana Mustafa of BD Lifts and Hasan Mahmud of Maan Bangladesh, the building codes that are followed in the country provide no specific rules when it comes to lift installation, and most of the installation, maintenance and servicing guidelines come from the top-tier lift manufacturers themselves. However, in the case of non-certified lift import, these guidelines are missing. In many cases, these unscrupulous lift importers lack the organisational infrastructure to supply spare parts and trained diagnosis to their customers.
Without any regulatory body, importer association or government mandated lift installation and maintenance policy, lift ownership is a burden that falls on building owners and associations. Proper servicing and maintenance, choosing safety and reliability over cost and being aware of what can go wrong, can ensure that the role lifts play in the daily lives of people stays a convenience instead of a danger to life.