If you have a lift at a property, you will know that they can be daunting pieces of kit to look after and manage. There can be a lot of technical talk and people’s fear of using and paying for them all coming to the surface.
However, like many things in property management, the trick is to get the right balance; do not necessarily know all the answers yourself, but know those who do and make sure the right questions are being asked.
The Basics of Managing Them
We have an overview resource of lifts in general and a handy ‘CAP’ acronym. Firstly, get your C for compliance sorted before looking at the A actions you need to take to see the lift running safely.
This ends in a P for procedures and getting in place the documentation for the safe use and operation of the lift; after all, they are risky things.
Here are five more detailed nuts-and-bolts issues that you need to address as a property manager directly involved with them. This is more hands-on to make sure you have all the right factors nicely in place:
1. The Right Cover
The main piece of legislation governing the safe operation of lifts is the Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, often abbreviated to ‘LOLER’, covering the workplace.
Of course, there are other general duties under general health and safety regulations, but this is the bedrock to which they often individually relate to.
There’s further information here, but in short, the relevant duty-holder needs to ensure elevators are 'thoroughly examined' and judged to be safe by a 'competent person', which boils down to what is known as a statutory LOLER inspection every six months.
This extends to 12 months for non-passenger lifts, but within this context, we’ll assume passenger ones, i.e. the idea is that the lift is moving people up and down a commercial or residential budding,
As an aside, you will often need to arrange separate engineering insurance for the actual lift-kit, as it isn’t generally included on the main building's cover. This may also involve other M&E pieces of kit, such as heating gear.
So, make sure this is being arranged satisfactorily – which, if it is, they will usually arrange this 6-month statutory inspection themselves at an additional cost to the premium. So in that respect, it’s all arranged for you, assuming, of course, that the correct insurance is in place.
However, there may be those circumstances where for some reason, insurance is not in place, or they don’t require them, in which case you will need to source and instruct a separate contractor for this. Just make sure they are suitably qualified for such ‘LOLER’ statutory inspections.
Once you have these in place, note that these are only the minimum cover, and they may recommend that more substantial supplementary tests be completed every 1, 5, or even ten years. Of course, this will depend upon the age and condition of the lift and the suspected issue that might arise.
Therefore, these needs are bottoming out, ideally by chatting with the inspector on-site and seeing the good or bad news. And even if they do suggest these, see whether this is just good advice or if they are saying for definite and the sort of issues that may arise.
2. The Best Service
This is more of an obvious one; having a suitably competent lift contractor to maintain the lifts, which is separate to the above point about statutory inspections which people get confused with, the idea is that there is an independent view of things; in reality, meaning that there are two contractors and inspections always involved.
And be careful about the type of contract set-up here, as you can find a default position of the company who installed the lift, not necessarily the better one longer-term.
The length of contract and number of visits needs addressing, often a few years with at least six-monthly visits.
Then see what level of cover this includes, whether just minimum service with added costs for repairs and call-outs or a full bells-and-whistles one with everything included.
It may be worth bringing in a specialist consultant to get this agreed upon and then clarifying how they will practically do this, including service sheets left on-site or sent, who to arrange access with, and agreed down-and-response times.
3. The Planned Works
This seems obvious at first but can soon develop into significant issues later.
It links with the above two points, i.e. carefully looking at what both the statutory and service inspections need doing in terms of any repairs and future planned works to the lifts.
Even if everything is okay now, delve deeper to see what the future holds many decades as well as years ahead. Then, ideally, chat through with them on-site and get a judgment call from them if needed and formal reports and quotes afterwards.
And make sure this relates to the rest of the property, so any planned refurbishment in the future and DDA allowances for disabled persons.
Plus, when you get bad news about significant repairs and replacement, go deeper and see whether something more cheap-and-cheerful is possible and if you can involve other contractors rather than the current service ones.
It's also worth looking into a different consultant or contractor for additional repairs and works outside the main maintenance contract, to not only give a professional opinion on what's needed but ensure it is competitively completed by a contractor.
4. The Correct Connection
It’s important to remember that lifts ideally need to have a connected signal somewhere - although not essential, highly recommended.
This is often through a phone or internet line to, for example, a remote monitoring station as part of the lift contractor’s service or a separate one. So, for instance, if the lift breaks down, someone inside can press the emergency button to alert someone off-site to come to the rescue.
If these lines exist, make sure they work, and don’t let a simple thing like not paying the BT phone bill mean the line goes down and no emergency cover is in place.
Getting with the times, you also now see wi-fi based GSM lines used which get away from these hard-line connections being needed.
There may also be lots of technical talk about how this connection can occur, for example, an ‘auto-dialer’. Although some lifts, particularly older and lower-risk ones, were never even built with these in place, it could still be an additional add-on service to investigate (plus, if they have one fitted already, you'll need to keep it working).
The other form of connection is also with any fire detection or alarm in the building. If the building alarm went off, it should signal the lift to automatically move to a safe ground-floor position and not be in use. Also, being clear on how to maintain things like the normal and emergency lighting in the lifts.
5. The Proper Procedures
The final stage is getting all the proper procedures and paperwork in place, not only an essential factor of any building service but particularly so with a potentially risky passenger lift.
It’s best to think of this in two halves, the first being actual signs and notices on-site. These may be standard ones placed outside each lift opening on each level saying ‘do not use in emergency’, or a bespoke one inside near the buttons saying what to do and who to contact should the lift stopped working.
This is even more essential if the lift has no remote connection as above. Therefore there needs to be a policy in place that no one should use the lift alone with no one else in the building out-of-hours just in case they get stuck with no way of letting others know (other than happening to have a mobile phone on them which would hopefully have a reception in the lift at all levels).
As an aside, if there is no remote connection, the lift often still has a manual alarm to sound on-site from an inside button which will need regular weekly sounding checks completed and recorded, and relevant details on the notices on how to use.
The second half of all these procedures is general communication with users and other relevant people within the building. This might mean a full-on Lift Policy, or at least referenced in an available Building Guide, with practical details of using and what to do in an emergency.
A common issue to address is what happens when people get trapped in the lift if it breaks down. Even with the correct remote connection, it may take the lift contractor or emergency services up to half an hour to arrive, in which case no one else should be trying to tinker around with the lift to get it going or try and get people out.
This can then dovetail in with other building functions which relate to the lift that everyone needs to be aware of from an operations perspective, for example, how not to use for a fire evacuation, special arrangements for disabled persons to use, making an allowance for other vulnerable people like children being around the area, and what items can and can’t be placed in here, for example, moving-in furniture (and placing temporary padding in the lifts for this).
Lifting Things to a Higher Level
If you’re involved in the actual operation and management of lifts at properties, whether you’re an appointed property manager or an owner or even occupier stuck with these within your liable area, then these above five factors are essential to get to grips with.
This will make sure you know the practical servicing and maintenance requirements and the follow-up paperwork and procedures, as, after all, they are serious pieces of kit that need to be safely used.
Check what information is on-site in the lift folder, and additional details provided such as the correct accreditation and insurance cover for the lift contractor.
Of course, you’ll need specialists involved here all the way, but someone somewhere will need to get to grips with these five essentials to make sure everything is tied together nicely.
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