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Monday, March 26, 2012

State has only 36 inspectors FOR 86,000 ELEVATORS

Rights Activists Say Law Governing Lifts In Maharashtra Needs Update To Fix Responsibility For Accidents

The lift mishap that occurred in Goregaon (West) on Sunday, injuring 10 people, has once again brought the spotlight on safety concerns over elevators in the city and the state. Given that the public works department (PWD) has only 36 inspectors for over 86,000 lifts in Maharashtra, experts cite the lack of regular inspection as the main reason for frequent elevator accidents. 
    Activists feel the Bombay Lift Act, 1939 and the Bombay Lift Rules, 1958 governing elevators are obsolete. Activist Mohammed Afzal, along with others, filed a PIL in 2010 on the inadequate number of PWD inspectors and on the need to prevent accidents. The PIL said there were 86,154 lifts in the state as of 2010 and about 5,000 were added every year. 
    Last year, the Bombay high court asked the PWD to display the number of lifts inspected every six months on its website from April 1, 2012 and quarterly inspection figures from 2013. An affidavit filed by S T Valekar, chief engineer (electrical), PWD, stated that in 2010 there were 16 inspectors in the department, who were required to carry out 157,100 inspections a year. Each inspector was, therefore, expected to carry out 9,818 inspections. The affidavit stated that the strength of the department had been increased to 36 as against a sanctioned strength of 62. 
    "Therefore, lifts remain uninspected and accidents happen at regular intervals, resulting in physical injuries, sometimes grievous and sometimes fatal," said Afzal. 
    The problem, according to activists, lies in the fact that it is not possible to fix responsibility in the case of a mishap. According to them, the state must update the law regulating the construction, installation, maintenance and safe operation of lifts. 
    "The managing committee of the housing society/office complex concerned and the lift maintenance contractor get away by blaming each other. The terribly short-staffed and poorly trained lifts department of the PWD is unable to cope with the situation," Afzal said. "Most lift inspections are only on paper." 
    After the PIL was filed, the state set up a committee of experts on lift safety. The committee's main recommendation was to outsource inspection, which faced stiff opposition from the lifts department. 

Usually, a sixpassenger lift is supported by three 13-mm cables. If the capacity of the lift is greater, either the number of cables or their strength is more

On an average, the speed of a lift is 0.64 metres per second

A lift is usually supported by an 8-mm speed governor cable in the shaft. One of the pulleys of this cable is in the lift machine room and the other in the ground floor pit

In case one or all three cables snap, the governor rope is adjusted in a way that the speed is brought under control. A metal jaw guide catches hold of the rail and the lift comes to an immediate halt

After the lift stops, often in the middle of two floors, the pulley needs to be manually released from the machine room and the lift rescued

1. Ten people in an elevator are headed for a housewarming party on the seventh floor of Chamunda Towers, Goregaon (West). The time is around 1pm on Sunday 2. As the elevator reaches the fifth floor, its occupants hear a loud noise 3. The next moment the lift starts a free fall down the shaft. The fall is probably arrested by springs at the base of the shaft, but the impact is enough to give the elevator's occupants stress or compression fractures. These fractures are caused when bodies hit the ground at high speed, causing bones, especially leg and spinal, to come under severe stress 4. The police have said the lift could have crashed because of overloading. A conclusive report by the public works department is awaited


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