Many building owners are hearing rumors, or receiving proposals from their elevator contractors to install car top guardrails on their elevators. The intent of this article is to help everyone to understand the details surrounding this guardrail requirement and if it actually applies to your elevator.
The short answer:
There is new safety legislation that requires any elevator car top with a gap beside or behind the car of more than 30 cm (12 inches) to have a car top guardrail. This work needs to be completed by December 1, 2013.
Does this apply to my elevator?
Many single hydraulic elevators (which typically only serve a few floors) will not require a guardrail since most are built with fairly small hoistways so the gaps beside and behind the elevator car are less than 30 cm. These smaller gaps do not need to be protected by a guardrail, since they are not deemed to be a falling hazard for workers on elevator car tops.
Anytime that you have more than one elevator in the same hoistway, there will be a safety railing required on the side of the car that is adjacent to the other car. Most traction elevators (typically faster elevators, or elevators that serve more than a few floors) will require car top railings, since the design of the mechanical equipment requires gaps between the car top and the wall of greater than 30 cm to accommodate the counterweight and other equipment that is integral to the operation of that elevator system.
Details on why this guardrail is required.
The actual legislation that brings this work into force in the province of Ontario, Canada is TSSA Director’s Order 245/10. There have been accidents and fatalities for workers on elevators that probably would have been prevented by having these guardrails. There are 3 different pieces of legislation, which require guardrails on elevators in different situations. All 3 different pieces of legislation also have slightly different requirements for the guardrails. This ruling tries to bring a standard into the industry which addresses all of the legislation.
What is involved in installing a guardrail?
The process is much more involved and costly than it first appears. The typical steps in the process are as follows:
1. Measure up the elevator to determine what size and style of guardrail will integrate best with the car top, will meet the requirements and be cost effective to install.
2. Design a customized guardrail system and have a professional engineer verify that the design meets the requirements.
3. Purchase and/or fabricate the guardrail system.
4. The elevator car (and counterweight if applicable) is weighed to establish a baseline for TSSA.
5. Install the guardrail system on the elevator including making any site specific modifications (Licensed elevator mechanics must do this work).
6. Field test the guardrail system to ensure compliance to the requirements and the engineer’s design.
7. Collect “as built” measurements on site to provide weight and engineering data to TSSA.
8. The Professional Engineer and the Field Supervisor of the elevator contractor must complete and sign an extensive registration document for TSSA.
9. TSSA’s engineers review and register the registration document.
10. A TSSA inspector either on his own, or with the assistance of an elevator mechanic, goes to the site to verify that the guardrail is in conformance with both the design and the director’s order.
11. Any deficiencies or differences in the interpretation of the legislation must be corrected and re-inspected by the TSSA inspector.
12. The TSSA fees for registration and field inspection must be paid.
Should I do this work now, or wait until closer to the to December 1, 2013 deadline?
Any guardrails that are installed and submitted to TSSA prior to May 1, 2012, have a slightly smaller scope of work since they can be installed under the 2007 version of the B44 Elevator Safety code. This older code does not require the elevator car and counterweight to be weighed and reported to TSSA. After May 1, 2012 the work will be more costly and may result in some complications and additional unforeseen costs if there is a significant discrepancy between the actual weight of the elevator and the weight recorded on the data tags.
The other problem with waiting until close to the deadline is that director’s orders like this always create a bubble of workload for the elevator companies in the industry. These workload bubbles can result in lead times for materials and manpower that have historically been in the range of a few months to over a year! The effect of a bubble like this is twofold. Firstly prices often increase closer to the deadline, since overtime work and other additional costs are incurred by the elevator companies in times where there is too much work. Secondly, some of the work does not get completed by the deadline for the owners, who procrastinated too much in making a decision. When the work is not done, the owner of the elevator bears the liability of any accidents resulting from the safety upgrade not being completed. TSSA has also gotten much more aggressive in enforcing overdue orders and recently has been shutting down elevators which are not in compliance. TSSA has even required licensed elevator contractors to report any non-conforming elevators to them so that the TSSA inspectors can efficiently engage in their compliance enforcement activities.
I already have a guardrail on my elevator, why do I need a new one?
Since historically there are 3 different pieces of legislation which require guardrails on elevators in different situations and for different purposes, there is a wide variety of guardrail systems on existing elevators. Very few, if any, guardrails installed prior to 2007 meet the current legislation. For some guardrails, it will be possible to upgrade the existing guardrails, but for most, it will be most cost effective to replace them since a professional engineer must certify the strength of the final guardrail. This TSSA ruling tries to bring a standard into the industry which addresses all of the legislation in place under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, The Building Code Act and The Elevator Safety Code.