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September 25, 2012

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Human error to blame in elevator death

AN initial investigation yesterday showed repair workers who removed a warning sign outside an elevator undergoing repair are to blame for the death of a woman who fell six floors after stepping into the empty shaft on Saturday.

The workers put away the warning sign during repairs at a downtown shopping mall but failed to leave someone to guard the shaft, the work safety bureau told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The incident took place inside Hualian Commercial Building, a busy shopping mall on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, about lunchtime on Saturday. The victim was identified as a 35-year-old tourist from Hunan Province. The woman pressed the button and stepped into the unguarded empty well.

Within two hours on the same day, another woman was seriously injured in a residential building after the elevator she boarded malfunctioned.

The terrible accidents have raised public concern about the safety of local elevators.

Up to 14,000 elevators, about 10 percent of all those in use citywide, have been in use for more than 15 years, considered a benchmark span in the industry. After that point, elevators can suffer serious problems without adequate maintenance, according to elevator industry experts and the quality watchdog.

But due to the absence of mandatory maintenance rules and a shortage of money and qualified technicians, many old elevators are poorly maintained, according to experts with the local elevator industry association. In the latest information available, the city's quality supervision bureau said six people were killed in 13 elevator accidents between 2006 and 2010. The bureau has warned of a rising number of elevator accidents with an increase in aged and poorly maintained elevators.

There's no national law in China on mandatory replacement of aged elevator parts, causing a safety loophole.

Shanghai lawmakers are currently working on a local law to force property owners to replace worn parts.

Industry experts said most elevators need to be replaced after 15 to 18 years, but that is not mandatory in China.

The quality bureau also said low pay has led to a desperate shortage of experienced maintenance technicians.

There's no legal minimum on service fees building managers must pay the elevator repair companies, which in some cases hire unqualified workers.


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