Explainer: How to ensure maintenance and safety of your lifts?

Over 75,000 lifts are installed across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) but is their maintenance taken care of frequently?

Four persons lost their lives in 2022 in accidents caused primarily due to poor maintenance of lifts in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). About 25 instances of malfunctioning of lifts were reported. Around one lakh lifts are installed across the MMR and apart from the serious accidents.

Elevators have become a crucial part of the housing infrastructure with buildings registering large-scale vertical growth to cater to the huge housing demand. Even the slum redevelopment buildings, that are being built, have 40-70 floors, which pose a different set of challenges.

Buildings in Mahul packed close together
Despite the regulations, lift accidents are far too common. Pic: Adam Cohn, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Not surprisingly, lifts are crucial in the daily lives of millions of Mumbaikars. However, many aspects of maintenance and safety are not known. Here’s an FAQ that can help citizens ensure that the elevators in their apartments are not just functional but also safe.

Who oversees the functioning of lifts in Mumbai and Maharashtra?

The department of Electrical Inspectorate, under the energy ministry of the state of Maharashtra is responsible for the safety and security of lifts. They keep tabs on every lift even they are installed, after installation and even monitor the maintenance.

Read more: Why are lift accidents on the rise?

They are also authorised to inspect lifts annually and upon receipt of complaints. In case of an accident involving lifts, the lifts department visits the place of incident, investigates and even recommends police investigation and legal action in case of any major lapse.

What are the permissions needed to install elevators?

A housing society has to approach the department of lifts for installation of lifts. For this, various details of the plans need to be submitted. Once approved and installed, the lift inspector will check if the necessary safety and safeguards have been followed. The inspector will grant permission for it to be utilised for public use only when all checks and balances are in place.

A lift inspector also does an annual inspection of a building lift and checks if the necessary oiling and maintenance work have been done. He also checks if the annual maintenance contractor (AMC) conducts his monthly check-up and scrutinises the remarks in the log book maintained for the same.

It is mandatory for every building to have an authorised and licenced contractor to inspect and maintain the lift on a regular basis. It is illegal to employ unauthorised contractors as it could endanger lives of people.

A housing society needs permission even to dismantle a lift on completion of its shelf life of 20 years.

two elevators
Last year, a 26-year-old teacher lost her life in an accident in Malad. Upon investigation, it was revealed that the elevator was not properly maintained. Pic: Wikimedia Commons

How do I know if my building lift is safe?

When you enter a lift, look out for the certification pasted on the lift. Check if the particular lift has permission to operate. You could also check if the maintenance is done regularly by checking the log book maintained by the annual maintenance contractor.

What do I do if maintenance and checks for lifts are not done?

In case, your housing society has failed to either retain an AMC or failed to conduct regular maintenance of the lift, then you can ask for records and demand for regular upkeep. If they refuse to do so, then you could complain to the office of the department of lifts. You could also file complaints if the maintenance services are not the mark.

You could either submit a written complaint to the office of electrical inspector at their Chembur office located at PWD Compound, RC Chemburkar Road, or mail on eiliftmumbai.nrg-mh@gov.in. An official from the lifts department will visit and check the lift and issue notice to the society if the necessary processes are not followed.

Read more: Mumbai’s highrises are not fire-safe. Here’s why

If the official finds that a particular lift is unsafe for public use, then he/she could prohibit its usage till the necessary repairs are done. Permissions for re-using the lift will be granted only after the official inspects and is convinced that the necessary repairs are done and the lift is safe for use.

How often is a lift supposed to be inspected and by whom?

While the authorised contractor is supposed to inspect a lift every month, the official from the lift department is expected to inspect it once a year.

How does one find if a lift has been inspected or not?

The certificate stuck on the lift should give you an idea if your lift has been inspected or not.

Read more: Is your building fire safe?

What laws govern the functioning of lifts in Maharashtra?

The lifts in Maharashtra continue to be governed under The Maharashtra Lift Act,1939 and the rules framed under The Bombay Lift Rules, 1958. Though the Maharashtra Lifts, Escalators and Moving Walks Act, 2017 has been passed, their rules are yet to be framed. Once it is done (expected by April, 2023) the provisions of the new Act would be enforced and the old Lifts Act would be repealed. Once the new Act comes into force, every lift will have to be inspected twice a year and every lift will have to be compulsorily phased out after 20 years.

view of buildings in Lower Parel, Mumbai, shadowed by the sunset
Building owners are required to have emergency evacuation plans in place in case lifts malfunction. Pic: Gopal MS, Mumbai Paused

What if there is a lift accident in my housing society?

About 30% of all lift accidents are caused by human errors, says Uday Dambe, electrical inspector (lifts division) of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. In case of an accident involving an elevator, the lift department has to be informed within 24 hours, following which the officials from the lift inspectorate will visit and investigate.

If the lift is faulty, then they investigate to fix responsibility for the same. Normally, the maintenance contractor is held liable for lift accidents provided the building society has given a comprehensive contract.

But, if it is found that the lift maintenance contractor had recommended repairs, which were not carried out by the building, then the building owner is held liable for the accident. If the building is already handed over to the society, then the chairman and secretary are held liable and criminal proceedings could be launched against them.

In case of negligence in an accident, an investigation report is submitted to the police, who file criminal charges under Section 304 (A). If found guilty, the courts may sentence the accused to jail for up to two years or fine or both.

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