The Ontario Auditor’s report made the following observations, many of which are applicable to other provinces’ situations with their elevators.
1. There is an increase in the number of injuries due to unsafe elevators. From May 2013 to April 2018, there were 487 reported, elevator-related safety incidents in Ontario. These events caused three deaths, and eight permanent and 137 non-permanent injuries. Safety incidents have more than tripled in five years, from 37 in 2013/14 to 137 in 2017/18. The most frequent cause of injuries was the improper levelling of the elevator car with the floor.
2. Maintenance companies are the primary cause of worsening elevator safety.
In Ontario, four companies – ThyssenKrupp, Otis, Kone and Schindler – are responsible for maintaining 54.5 per cent of elevators and escalators. In May 2013, TSSA began charging owners extra fees for subsequent follow-up inspections of elevating devices, but discontinued the practice in April 2016 because it found that compliance with safety laws declined during this time, decreasing from 31 per cent to 23 per cent. Maintenance companies are the primary cause of poor compliance. They offer services at reduced rates, which creates incentives to minimize time and effort to maintain or fix elevators. Building owners cannot afford to litigate against large maintenance companies that do not perform required maintenance and safety tests on time, as it is difficult to switch providers due to strong contracts and the use of proprietary technology.
3. The TSSA has limited ability to compel
maintenance companies to do safety work on time. Legislation makes it difficult to issue orders directly to maintenance companies, as the ministry or independent regulator must perform a full investigation for identified safety problems to determine whether the owner or the maintenance company is responsible. Orders are often issued directly to elevator owners, who are “ultimately responsible and liable for the safe operation of
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the elevating devices.” Neither the ministries nor the independent regulators will revoke a large maintenance company’s operating licence because it would prevent the company from working on any of its other elevators.
4. A large maintenance company was
prosecuted four times for repeatedly not doing required safety work on time.
This company was fined more than $1 million for non-compliance, which includes “failing to complete required maintenance work and safety tests.” On two separate occasions, a passenger was injured when an elevator malfunctioned. This company was prosecuted for repeatedly failing to perform the required safety tests on time. However, these prosecutions have not affected the large maintenance company, as about 91 per cent of elevators that it maintains “failed their TSSA inspection, mostly due to outstanding maintenance work and safety tests.” “Fines do not work,” said Tevyaw. “The state of affairs has not improved, and has continued to deteriorate. We need to find the right tools to ensure compliance.”
5. Elevators with the highest number of safety problems are serviced by the prosecuted large maintenance company.
According to TSSA inspection reports for 2016 and 2017, eight of the 10 elevators that failed to comply with the most safety laws were serviced by this elevator maintenance company. On average, these elevators failed to comply with 55 safety laws, whereas the average for other elevators is seven. Five of these elevators are located in a Toronto hospital. The findings also showed that it took five TSSA follow-up inspections over seven months for required maintenance work to be completed, and two elevators required more than 12 follow-up inspections over 25 months.
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