LCQ9: Lift safety

     Following is a question by the Hon Doreen Kong and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (January 11):
     In recent months, a rope breakage lift incident happened in an industrial building which has once again aroused wide public concern about lift safety. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of lift inspections conducted by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and the number of cases with safety problems identified through such inspections together with the causes of such problems, in each of the past five years, and whether the EMSD made updates and adjustments to the relevant inspection mechanism, workflow and criteria for selecting inspection targets in the past five year;
(2) in respect of stepping up the monitoring of registered lift contractors and registered lift engineers, whether the EMSD conducted any review and what enhancement measures it took in the past five years;
(3) of the current total number of lifts in the territory and their age distribution;
(4) of the current staffing establishment of the EMSD's dedicated team responsible for lift safety, and its manpower increase/decrease in the past three years; whether the EMSD has assessed if the existing staffing establishment is adequate for dovetailing with the implementation of various lift safety measures;
(5) in respect of (i) registered lift engineers and (ii) registered lift workers, of their respective annual numbers and rates of increase, as well as their respective annual average numbers of graduates who had completed the relevant training courses and annual numbers of persons joining the industry, in the past three years; whether the Government has assessed if the existing manpower of these two categories of qualified practitioners is adequate, and whether new measures are in place to attract new blood to join the industry;
(6) given that registered lift workers are required to renew their registration every five years and to complete within the said period at least 30 hours of relevant training (covering areas including (i) environmental protection in the profession, (ii) safety for work on lifts, (iii) lifts related practical skills and codes of practice, (iv) related innovation and technologies, as well as (v) customer service and works management), whether it knows the enrolment and hours enrolled of the courses of each area, as well as the relevant ratio, in each of the past five years; whether it will consider requiring such workers to increase their training hours in respect of area (ii) and (iii), so as to enhance work standard; and
(7) of the number of applications approved and the number of modernisation works completed under the Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme since the launch of the Scheme in 2019, as well as the expected number of applications to be completed in handling in this financial year?
     The Government has all along been attaching great importance to lift safety. Through the Lifts and Escalators Ordinance (Cap. 618) (the Ordinance), the Government regulates the design, installation, maintenance, commissioning and examination of lifts.
     As the department responsible for enforcing the Ordinance, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) has been implementing a series of safety-related regulatory measures, including type approval of lifts and their safety components, formulation of the code of practice on the design and construction of lifts, and implementation of the registration system for lift contractors, engineers and workers, to ensure the safe operation of lifts. The EMSD also conducts regular inspections and surprise checks of lifts covered by the Ordinance so as to monitor the performance of registered contractors and practitioners in respect of works quality and safety. When identifying non-compliance in incidents or during inspections, the EMSD will duly consider the nature and severity of the incidents as well as evidence collected to determine if warning, disciplinary action or criminal prosecution should be issued to or taken against the registered contractors, engineers or workers concerned.
     In addition, to enhance the safety of aged lifts, the Government launched the Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme (LIMSS) in 2019 and appointed the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) as the administrative agent, to provide financial incentive and professional support to building owners in need, thereby encouraging them to carry out modernisation works for their aged lifts.
     The reply to the seven parts of the question is as follows:

(1) There are three types of lift inspections carried out by the EMSD:
(i) Inspections of lifts which are newly installed or have major alternations completed, as well as those involving complaints or incidents;
(ii) Regular inspections of maintenance and examination of existing lifts on a risk-based principle; and
(iii) Surprise checks on registered lift contractors and practitioners.
     The number of lift inspections conducted by the EMSD from 2018 to 2022 and the number of cases where "non-compliance" were identified during inspections are as follows:
Year Number of lift inspections
(Number of "non-compliance" cases)
2018 13 619 (143)
2019 26 083 (48)
2020 25 229 (92)
2021 24 227 (187)
2022 24 789 (164)

     The "non-compliance" cases cover different situations, such as abnormal lift operation, mechanical defects, failure of emergency devices, which reveal the quality of maintenance and repair services provided by the registered contractors. The EMSD will examine the nature and severity of each case to determine whether a detailed investigation is required pursuant to the Ordinance.
     From time to time, the EMSD reviews and enhances the lift inspection regime. For example, an electronic platform was launched in September 2020 to facilitate registered lift contractors to submit and update their periodic maintenance schedules via electronic means. As a result, the EMSD no longer requires to make prior appointments with the contractors in arranging its inspections, rendering the inspection work more effective. In September 2021, the EMSD also reviewed the inspection regime, updated the guidelines and drew up a checklist, setting out clearly the items to be inspected and tested during different types of inspections, as well as the follow-up actions and reporting procedures required. The updated regime has unified the inspection methods and standards in order to ensure that irregularities identified during inspections would be handled appropriately. In November last year, the EMSD further introduced the Digital Log-books System for Lifts and Escalators for use by the industry stakeholders with the aim of motivating the practice of recording the works details, traditionally in paper format, by digital means, thus enhancing the management standard and safety practice in lift maintenance and repair works. The system enables the government inspectors to carry out real-time monitoring and realise the maintenance and repair information of lifts through the mobile platform.
(2) On the monitoring of registered lift contractors, the EMSD has formulated the Registered Lift and Escalator Contractors' Performance Rating System which is uploaded onto the Department's website for reference by the general public. If the contractors' works are found to be unsatisfactory during inspections, the EMSD will not only require them to make improvements but also deduct marks from the performance rating of the contractors concerned. In December 2020, the EMSD reviewed the above rating system and added more non-compliant items concerning poor maintenance subject to marks deduction. In so doing, the coverage of the rating system is expanded and the performance of the contractors better reflected. This open rating system helps motivate contractors to pay attention to their service quality, making the EMSD's monitoring work more effective.
     On the monitoring of registered lift engineers, the EMSD has required them to submit photos of key parts and safety components of lifts after each examination for record and audit purposes since November 2021, so as to strengthen the monitoring of registered lift engineers' work.
(3) The responsible persons (i.e. the owners or the property management companies) should take primary responsibility for the proper maintenance of their lifts. In general, lifts are safe for use irrespective of whether they are new or aged if there are proper periodic examination and maintenance. The number of lifts in Hong Kong based on the age distribution is given below:
Age (Years) Number of lifts
5 or less 7 307
6-10 6 219
11-15 5 299
16-20 8 630
21-30 17 262
31-40 13 316
41-50 8 654
51 or more 4 822
Total 71 509

(4) According to the Ordinance, the responsible person for a lift is required to arrange a registered lift contractor to carry out periodic maintenance for the lift, and a registered lift engineer to conduct periodic examination, issue a safety certificate and obtain a use permit issued by the EMSD before the lift can be opened for use. In order to monitor effectively the examination and maintenance of lifts in Hong Kong, which will in turn safeguard the public safety, the EMSD has not only set up a dedicated team but also engaged independent consultants to assist in the monitoring work. In the past three years, the number of staff in the dedicated team maintained at 46 while that of the consultants' inspection staff was about 20. Based on the EMSD's assessment, the existing manpower establishment, including the inspection staff from the consultants, is sufficient to cope with the work concerned. That said, the EMSD will review the manpower requirements from time to time and, where necessary, increase additional resources and manpower so as to ensure that every monitoring measure can be implemented effectively.
(5) The number of registered lift engineers and registered lift workers in the past three years is tabulated below (with rise/fall compared to the previous year shown in brackets):
  2020 2021 2022
Number of registered lift engineers 369
(-7.5% (Note 1))
Number of registered lift workers 5 888
6 111
6 210
Note 1: The year 2022 saw the upsurge in renewal in the 5-year registration cycle for registered engineers. About 30 registered engineers who changed the nature of their work or reached the retirement age did not renew their registration.
     The majority of lift maintenance courses in Hong Kong are offered by the Vocational Training Council (VTC) via its apprenticeship and certificate programmes. The number of graduates of the relevant courses in the past three years is as follows:
  2020 2021 2022
Total number of graduates of lift/escalator courses of the VTC 155 143 193(Note 2)
Note 2: The VTC has increased the number of places of the part-time evening courses related to the lift and escalator trade since the 2017/18 academic year, resulting in an increase in the number of graduates in 2022.

     Most of the graduates of the above courses chose to join the lift and escalator trade and were employed by registered contractors as general workers as a start. After completing relevant training and gaining sufficient experience, they can apply for registration as a registered worker under the Ordinance.
     Based on the EMSD's assessment, the numbers of registered lift engineers and registered lift workers in Hong Kong are sufficient to meet the manpower demand of the lift industry. This notwithstanding, the EMSD has all along been working closely with the industry stakeholders to attract more new blood to join the trade.
     For registered lift engineers, to become a registered lift engineer as per the requirement under the Ordinance, the applicant must at least hold a bachelor degree and have 4 years' relevant working experience. In order to attract more talents with high academic qualifications to join the trade, the EMSD is collaborating with the trade and professional institutes to promote the raising of registered engineers' professional qualifications and image, through encouraging registered contractors to provide professional training and motivating practitioners to acquire professional qualification of the registered professional engineers.
     Concerning registered lift workers, apart from providing subsidies for trade apprentices through the Earn and Learn Scheme, offering lift-related training courses, and implementing the Contractor Cooperative Training Scheme and the Pilot Cooperative Apprentice Training Scheme, the EMSD also collaborates with the VTC and the trade to run the Professional Diploma Meister in Lift and Escalator Engineering programme, which is the first skill-based Diploma of Vocational Education programme in the territory pegged at Level 5 (QF5) of the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (equivalent to the level of a bachelor's degree). By creating a progression pathway for young practitioners, it can foster succession of skills, thereby attracting more young people to join the lift trade.
(6) For each renewal application of a registered lift worker, the EMSD will examine the applicant's training record and proofing documents to ensure that he/she has fulfilled the requirements as per the Ordinance and completed at least 30 hours of relevant training before renewing his/her registration. The training courses are generally arranged by registered contractors. The EMSD does not have the statistics on the breakdown of the types of training courses submitted by the workers in their renewal applications. According to the Ordinance, the training must be related to the installation, maintenance and examination of lifts. However, the Ordinance does not further set the respective hours needed for specific training areas. In response to the Member's suggestion, the EMSD will consider formulating a guideline and consult the industry for setting the minimum training hours in connection with lift safety and code of practice.
(7) The LIMSS was launched in March 2019 focusing on aged lifts that have not been equipped with safety devices meeting the latest standards and building owners requiring financial assistance. We estimate that around 13 000 lifts in Hong Kong are eligible for the scheme. The application of the scheme was closed on September 30, 2020, and a total of 2 021 valid applications involving 8 221 lifts have been received. Taking cognisance of the capacity of the industry, we have been processing the applications in batches according to their priorities. As at the end of this financial year, a total of 3 800 lifts have obtained approval for carrying out modernisation works, with the yearly breakdown shown below:
Financial Year Number of lifts obtained approval
2019-20 600 units
2020-21 900 units
2021-22 1 100 units
2022-23 1 200 units (Note 3)
Total 3 800 units
Note 3: Estimated number
     Hampered by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, many building owners with their LIMSS applications approved were unable to hold owners' meetings to discuss the works arrangement, and hence the progress of the lift modernisation works has been greatly affected. Up to November 2022, there were about 400 lifts having the modernisation works completed with use permits issued. Also, the modernisation works of about 2 000 lifts were either under the tendering stage or having the works contracts awarded. Such modernisation works are expected to commence and be completed progressively in 2023. As the society gradually resumes normal, we will closely liaise with the URA to provide support for the building owners in need so that they can proceed with the modernisation works as early as possible.
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:45