Research reveals key issues found in lifts returning to service following lockdown14 October 2021

Using a dessicant to clear up a hydraulic oil leak in a pit shaft

An informal survey conducted by LECS UK, the independent lift and escalator consultant engineers, reveals the most common issues that presented in lifts being brought back into service following the re-opening of all areas of society post lock-down.

The top-line research among lift maintenance providers of office blocks, retail outlets and the hospitality sector since ‘freedom day’ (on 19 July), revealed that the vast majority of these dormant lifts were re-commissioned without significant issues.

However, some issues were present. The most common being premature component wear or failure, followed by numerous lifts requiring an up-to-date LOLER certification before going back into service. There are/were no extensions to LOLER deadlines due to the pandemic.

Most hydraulic lifts required a routine visit by the maintenance provider to get the lift back into service. However, some maintenance providers reported that the lift had sunk on to the buffers due to internal valve leakage over the time it had been switched off.

More common was that the lubrication on the guides had starting to dry out, or simply run to the base of the guides themselves. As a result, the lift made an awful noise when returned to service.

Occasionally, some suspended solids in the hydraulic oil were found to have sunk to the bottom of the tank. When the lift restarted these were churned up by the action of the motor and pump, causing internal damage to the valve block or other hydraulic components, such as seals.

In a few situations the lift was not able to reach the top floor due to hydraulic oil leakage, where the oil had been lost in the shaft and not returned to the tank.

Some reports listed that the pit had accumulated water. In one instance, a blocked drain had filled a pit with sewage.

For traction lifts there were reports that the brakes ‘seemed sluggish’. In other cases, the brake drum, suspension ropes and other components had surface rust due to lack of use, and therefore required attention.

Escalators are not covered by LOLER, but mostly required that the drive and steps chains were lubricated.

In conclusion, it would appear from this top-line research that most lift and escalators were decommissioned properly for lockdowns and that a complete maintenance and service brought them back into service without issues.

Dave Cooper, managing director of LECS UK, said: “It is always strongly recommended that all lifts or escalators are subjected to a thorough maintenance visit prior to re-entering service.”

In 2020 he helped develop CIBSE’s ‘Emerging From Lockdown’ guidance. This included ‘Re-commissioning of lifts and escalators’, available for download via the link below.

Operations Engineer

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