The lives of thousands of Zimbabweans who use elevators are at risk as it has emerged that most of the machines have become death traps.

Investigations have shown that no one is responsible for ensuring mandatory maintenance of the elevators in high rising buildings to enforce safety regulations.

There are 1 328 elevators in Zimbabwe and 170 of them are not working. Harare alone has 50 non-functional elevators.

According to the Factories and Works Act, the person or persons owning or leasing the elevator whose name or names appear on the certificate of permission to use the elevator are responsible for its maintenance.

NSSA only plays a regulatory role through its Occupation Health Policy and it monitors the safety of the elevators once a year.

An official in the Ministry of Labour and Social Services who declined to be named, said NSSA was only concerned when the elevator was used for work related purposes (construction).

However, other countries conduct quarterly inspections of the elevators and impose heavy fines on owners who fail to maintain the elevators.

“Elevators are required to be serviced at all times to ensure the safety of the users. Servicing of the elevators is part of safety risk management, which is in line with world standards,” an expert from CB Richard Ellis who declined to be named said.

Another expert from Otis Elevators, said hoist ropes which handle the lift in case of an emergency, were also required to be replaced after every 10 years.

“Many safety ropes have outlived their lifespan and these ropes are there to hoist the lift in an emergency. There is no one concerned with these issues and it’s a time bomb” .

According to the law that regulates the use of the elevators in Zimbabwe — the Factories and Works Act Chapter 14:08, as well as the regulations made under that Act, including the Elevator and Escalator Regulations, R.G.N.No.278 of 1976 as amended — it is an of fence to use an elevator without permission.

It is a condition of the permission to use an elevator that the user appoints a competent person or a company that employs such competent persons to carry out prescribed weekly and monthly inspections to ensure they are in safe working condition.

In December 1999, when the CABS Millennium Towers building was being constructed in Harare, 15 construction workers, including a father and son, lost their lives when a hoist they were using malfunctioned and fell from the 15th floor.

There were no survivors.

In December 2010, at the PTC Pension Fund Building in Gweru, a member of the public fell into an elevator pit during maintenance work and died a few days later.

Sometime back a lawyer was killed after a lift without a censor crushed him at Hurudza House.

By Peter Matambanadzo

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