Elevator Availability Study – Our OpinionDoug Guderian
The Elevator Availability Study final report has finally been released. In conjunction with the release of the report, the Ontario government has released a press release and an action plan. Here are the links:
The Canadian Press has also released two informative articles on some of the key items in the 78-page report:
Here are some thoughts and observations on the details of Justice Douglas Cunningham’s final report:
- The report states that there is no jurisdiction in the world that currently enforces elevator availability. It seems to indicate that this absence of legislation is largely because the factors and parties affecting elevator availability are complex and varied. It is clear to me that for Ontario to pass workable legislation, it will certainly require much more study, industry consultation and information gathering. To try to rush or short-circuit this process in developing world-first legislation would be foolish. I also wonder if the decision makers will have the fortitude and good sense to abandon the process altogether if the data indicates that there are no good workable solutions.
- The report recommends a return to monthly maintenance for problem or unreliable elevators. I fully support this direction. Some of the background information here is as follows: when the TSSA introduced the MCP (Maintenance Control Program) in 2014, the minimum legal requirement for maintenance dropped from Monthly to Quarterly inspections – The Big Four elevator companies quickly reduced most of their inspection frequencies from monthly to quarterly, but most independent companies have continued to do primarily monthly maintenance. I also believe that this reduction in elevator inspections has had a negative effect on elevator availability.
- The report states that there are 3500 mechanics in Ontario (other TSSA data tells us that about 1800 of these, or about 50%, are non-union). When I subtract the number of employees working for unionized independent elevator companies, which leaves about 40% of Ontario’s licenced elevator work force working for the Big Four elevator companies. The report states that the Big Four perform 75% of the maintenance services and the report quotes, “National Elevator and Escalator Association suggest their membership, occupying close to 75% of the Ontario Market” (Page 30). How can 40% of the province’s elevator labour properly perform 75% of the work? It is clear that the Big Four simply do not have enough qualified men to get the work done. TSSA’s data from the report confirms that only 17% to 22% of the elevators are in conformance with legislation and I believe that this ratio of labour to work with the Big Four is a large part of the reason why. The surveys that Elevator One does before we quote on a maintenance contract confirm that typically the Big Four are not even getting a fraction of the legally required tasks done.
- The report states “A dual mandate will strain current TSSA capacity”(Page 39). Since TSSA’s enforcement is currently only having a 17% to 22% success rate and the report confirms that this number is getting even worse, I do not understand how TSSA can be expected to take on some of the additional duties, enforcement and information gathering, as recommended by the report. TSSA used to provide elevator contractor rating reports to each elevator contractor, but TSSA stopped this function at the end of 2015. The recent history seems indicate that TSSA has more than enough challenges on its plate without adding additional ones.
- I was surprised by how high the total numbers of elevator entrapments are. Some simple math indicates that each elevator in the province will have an entrapment approximately once every 4 years. The statistics for the elevators that we maintain are better than this average by a factor of 5 to 10 times. I guess that this is an example from the report where it says, “there is an opportunity for higher value ‘Premium’ services for those willing to pay more”. (Pages 16,17)
- I am in full agreement with the report’s recommendation to put standards in place for a formula for the minimum number of elevators in new buildings. Once a building is built with too few elevators, it is virtually impossible to ever correct the situation during the life of the building. Speeding up the elevators and improving the computerized dispatching are typically reasonably minor improvements that cannot fully fix the root cause of the problem.
- The report seems to have missed one of the pitfalls of the MCP. The MCP (Maintenance Control Program), that the TSSA introduced in 2014, downloads much of the responsibility for the testing of elevator functions to the elevator contractors, but it has almost no requirements for actual preventative maintenance tasks. For example simple basic items like oiling and greasing various components are not mandated. This gap has created a “Testing Control Program” not a “Maintenance Control Program”. More testing can improve elevator availability marginally, but a good preventative maintenance program has a much greater positive effect on elevator availability and reliability.
- A second glaring miss on the report seems to be its relative silence on the problems with no regulation or enforcement for elevators in private homes in Ontario. Currently, there are more new elevators being installed in single unit private homes than there are new elevators installed in commercial buildings that TSSA inspects. Ontarians living in private homes should have the same access to safe and reliable elevators as those living in high-rises, but no one is required to even do any safety inspections of any sort for home elevators. Neither the building departments or TSSA or anyone else ever performs independent inspections on them.
- There are excellent elevator service contractors operating in Ontario today, but building owners/managers must be willing to pay for proper servicing. Maintenance prices have been driven down over the past 25 years to a point where proper maintenance cannot be done for some of these prices, and maintenance quality and service have suffered. As a company we do not even entertain maintaining elevators where the owner does not recognize the cost of proper maintenance. Furthermore, it is important for owners/managers of elevators to understand that there will be extra costs to provide the additional data tracking and reporting recommended in the report.