The government will require regular inspections of all new and existing elevators commencing some time within the next three months.
The announcement came less than six weeks after Androgroup Elevator Ltd. Chief Executive Alan Roffey raised the issue of elevator safety in an article in the Caymanian Compass, noting that the regular inspection of elevators was not required here.
Ministry of Planning Permanent Secretary Kearney Gomez said the elevator inspection programme has been in the works for some time.
‘We take this whole issue with elevators and public safety very seriously,’ he said. ‘Even before [Mr. Roffey’s comments] we were looking very seriously at the introduction of an elevator inspection programme.’
Although the Planning Department does not know exactly how many elevators there are in the Cayman Islands, it roughly estimates the number to be between 150 and 200. Director of Planning Kenneth Ebanks said the time has come to start a regular inspection programme.
‘We have reached that stage in our maturity,’ he said, noting that there are an increasing number of elevators being installed in Cayman and higher buildings being constructed. ‘Elevators weren’t that much of an issue in the past.’
Some of the elevators in the older commercial building in George Town were installed in the 1970s and maintenance programmes on those elevators have been at the discretion of the owners. Regular inspections will force all owners to keep their elevators well maintained, and to retrofit or replace ones that no longer perform well.
Mr. Ebanks said the first step in introducing the programme is for the Planning Department to hire an elevator inspector, something he hopes happens within the next three months.
‘We’ve started to put together a job description for that person,’ he said, adding that part of the responsibilities of the position will be to set up the inspection programme.
Mr. Ebanks said the first elevator inspector would probably come from overseas, but that Caymanians would be trained for the position.
‘We’ve identified two staff members to take training from [the person hired from overseas] for the next two years, as well as going off island and doing the necessary training – like classroom training – to get certification,’ he said. ‘Hopefully by 2010, we’ll have at least two qualified [Caymanian] elevator inspectors.’
Chief Building Control Officer Emerson Piercy said the frequency of elevator inspections will be determined by they type of elevator. He also said the framework for requiring regular elevator inspections was already included in a section of the Cayman Islands Building Code.
There will be a cost involved to building owners for post-installation inspections, although Mr. Ebanks was unsure what the cost would be at this point.
‘I would imagine [the fee structure] will look at what it would cost to put the programme in place,’ he said. ‘We want to make sure we break even at least.’
Right now, the Planning Department only requires inspections of new installations of certain types of elevators and those inspections are facilitated by the Department’s electrical inspectors. In the future, however, it is envisioned that the elevator inspectors will have their own classification, outside of the electrical inspectors, Mr. Piercy said.
Once the programme is put in place, this initial inspections of elevators will be staggered so that they will not all become due at one time in the future. Mr Piercy said the initial inspections would be scheduled depending on factors such as when the elevator was installed, the type of elevator and its recommended maintenance programme.
Like in other jurisdiction in the world, signed elevator inspection certificates, showing the due date for the next inspection, will be placed on display in the elevator.
Elevators that do not pass inspection will not be allowed to operate until they do pass inspection.
To help ensure elevator installation and service companies have properly trained staff members, the Planning Department will offer, when needed, training workshops, organised by its elevator inspectors.
Mr. Piercy said it was likely that in the future, people who install or maintain elevators will have to be certified in some way.
‘Once we start looking at it there probably would be some kind of qualification, absolutely,’ he said.
When told of the impending elevator inspection programme, Mr. Roffey responded: ‘Brilliant. We’ve always been very supportive of that.’