Escalator safety major issue in China

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There are growing concerns in China about the safety of both escalators and elevators in this country following a pair of recent accidents which left two women dead.

The latest fatal elevator accident took place a week ago on a cargo lift in the province of Jiangsu. A young woman was killed after she suddenly became stuck in the gap between the lift and the platform.

The preliminary investigation suggests she was killed after the elevator's brakes failed.

"The elevator failed to stop and dragged the victim along with it as it went up. Our preliminary assessment is the accident may have been caused by brake failure. As for the cause of the failure, we will still need to identify it using technical analysis before coming to a full conclusion," said Chen Danjian, one of the investigators from the city of Hangzhou who is looking into what happened.

This was the 2nd accident involving people-moving devices in China this past month.

On July 26th, just a day before the elevator accident in Wuxi, a woman was killed after falling into a gap at the top of an escallator at a shopping mall in the city of Jingzhou in Hubei.

Security camera video, which found its way online, shows the 31-year-old woman briefly clinging to the edge of the gap while holding her young son out to be rescued by a mall staff member.

The child was pulled to safety.

However, his mother was later found dead under the escalator.

The two incidents have created a new wave of concerns about escalator and elevator safety in China.

Stats from the China Elevator Association show more than half of all accidents involving elevators and escalators are connected to maintenance and repair neglect.

Zhang Huaiji, an engineer with the Shenzhen Institute of Special Equipment Inspection and Testing, notes many of the elevators put into service after 2003 are reaching the end of their service life.

At the same time, he says the growing number of escalators and elevators being put into service in China is creating too heavy a workload for the limited number of inspectors available.

"There are too many elevators. Shortages of professional staff are very severe in some places. A technician sometimes has to double or triple his workload to keep up."

The heavy workloads and low wages have also begun affecting retention rates for elevator maintenance technicians, putting their numbers here in China below international standards.

China's rapid urbanization over the past decade has seen the number of elevators and escalators put into service increase by a rate of around 20-percent a year.

Official analysis from China's State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine show there are currently around 150-thousand elevators and escalators currently in-service which are over 15-years old.

Around 5 in every 100 elevators or escalators inspected in China are found to have some type of problem.

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