Single Bottom Cylinder Elevators
- What are the different types of elevators?
There are two main types of elevators commonly used: traction elevators and hydraulic elevators. Traction elevators are lifted by ropes, which pass over a wheel attached to an electric motor above the elevator shaft. Hydraulic elevators are supported by a piston at the bottom of the elevator that pushes the elevator up as an electric motor forces hydraulic fluid into the piston.
- What is unsafe about single bottom cylinder elevators?
Older hydraulic elevators with single bottom cylinders were installed directly in the ground with no protection from corrosion. This poses a safety risk because corrosion can lead to the release of hydraulic fluid from the cylinder, resulting in an uncontrolled descent of the elevator.
- When were single bottom cylinder elevators allowed to be installed?
Before 1977, the industry standard for cylinders was a single bottom cylinder design installed directly in the ground with no protection from corrosion.
- Are single bottom cylinder elevators still being made?
No. The double bottom cylinder design has become the industry standard for hydraulic elevators.
- How many people have been injured or killed in single bottom cylinder elevator incidents?
Between 1990 and 2006, there were nine recorded incidents of single bottom cylinder elevators failing in North America. There have been two incidents in Canada. Both occurred in Ontario: An elevator failure in 1990 resulted in one fatality, and an incident in 2006 caused permanent disabilities to five people.
- If there hasn't been an incident since 2006, why upgrade single bottom cylinder elevators in BC now?
There are significant and escalating safety concerns with single bottom cylinder elevators. Because the risk of failure increases as the equipment ages and all affected elevators are now several decades old, continued operation represents an unacceptable risk to the safety of people who use them. They need to be fixed now or removed from service.
- What are other jurisdictions doing to address single bottom cylinder elevators?
In addition to BC, numerous jurisdictions in North America have adopted regulations for single bottom cylinder elevators, including Ontario, New York City, Chicago, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas.
BCSA's 2010 Safety Order
- What led to BCSA's safety order in 2010 requiring upgrades to all single bottom cylinder elevators in BC?
The provincial government enacted a regulation change in 2010 requiring all single bottom cylinder elevators to be upgraded or removed from service in response to a number of failures across North America. BCSA consulted with industry before issuing the safety order in 2010 to make sure owners and elevating contractors were given sufficient time to take action and comply with the safety order.
- How many elevators were affected by the safety order?
There were almost 1,300 elevating units that had to take action when we issued the safety order in 2010.
- Of the almost 1,300 elevators affected by the safety order, how many became compliant before the October 8, 2015 deadline?
Over 98% of owners have taken action to comply with the safety regulations in BC. Today, fewer than 20 are non-compliant.
- Aren't code changes designed to improve safety going forward rather than force people to make constant changes to old equipment?
From time to time, the provincial government enacts regulation changes to adopt updated code requirements in the interest of safety. Adopted changes can be required for new installations going forward or on already existing equipment, as in the case of single bottom cylinder elevators.
- Who is ultimately responsible for the safety of elevators in BC?
The owners of the elevators are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of their units.
- What can owners of single bottom cylinder elevators do to make them compliant with the safety order?
Owners of single bottom cylinder elevators were given five options to bring their unit into compliance with safety regulations:
1. Provide proof that their cylinder is already a double bottom cylinder;
2. Install a mechanism to grab and hold the elevator cylinder in case of failure;
3. Install elevator car safeties to hold the car in place in case of failure;
4. Replace the single bottom cylinder with a double bottom cylinder; or
5. Remove the elevator from service.
- How much does it typically cost to upgrade a single bottom cylinder elevator?
While it depends largely on the building and the type of unit, upgrading a typical single bottom cylinder elevator can cost as little as $20,000 to install a safety mechanism called a “piston gripper” to grab and hold the elevator cylinder in case of failure, or upwards of around $150,000 or more to replace a single bottom cylinder with a double bottom cylinder.
- How long is the elevator typically out of service while it is being upgraded?
It depends on the upgrade option that is being undertaken, but out of service periods can vary from a few days to several weeks.
- What happens if an owner of a single bottom cylinder elevator can't find a licensed elevator contractor to make the necessary upgrade?
There are a number of licensed elevator contractors in BC who are familiar with this issue and can make the necessary upgrades. BCSA has made this a top priority and we expect building owners and elevator contractors to do the same. A list of licensed elevating device contractors qualified to perform this work can be found on BCSA’s website at: www.safetyauthority.ca/hydraulic-elevators.
- What happens if owners of single bottom cylinder elevators fail to upgrade their elevators?
If an owner of a single bottom cylinder elevator fails to bring their unit into compliance with the safety regulations by January 28, 2016, then BCSA may issue them with a $15,000 monetary penalty and remove the elevator from service.
- Why did BCSA give owners five years to make the necessary upgrades?
BCSA consulted with industry before issuing the safety order in 2010 to make sure owners and elevating contractors were given sufficient time to take action. Because the risk of failure increases as the equipment ages and all affected elevators are now several decades old, they need to be fixed now or removed from service.
- Can an owner of a non-compliant elevator still bring it into compliance even though the deadline of October 8, 2015 has passed?
BCSA has notified all non-compliant owners that they must retain the services of a licensed elevating device contractor to apply for a variance to allow more time for completion of the remediation work and avoid a potential shutdown of their elevator. If a variance permit is issued, owners will have up to April 30, 2016 to have their elevator upgraded provided no imminent hazards are apparent.
- What steps did BCSA take to ensure that all owners of single bottom cylinder elevators were made aware of the requirements to make the necessary upgrades?
BCSA has communicated extensively with owners of single bottom cylinder elevators since issuing the safety order in 2010. This includes numerous direct letters and notifications, as well as public announcements and awareness campaigns.
- Who is responsible for actually shutting down non-compliant elevating units?
Under the safety order, the responsibility for removing a non-compliant elevating unit from service rests with the licensed elevating device contractor. BCSA safety officers will provide support to the elevating device contractors who will need to take this action upon request. A licensed contractor is always required to shut-down any unsafe elevator found in the course of performing regulated work.
- Will BCSA publish a list of addresses with non-compliant elevating units and indicate when shutdowns will occur?
Yes. An up-to-date list of buildings with elevators subject to shut-down can be viewed online at www.safetyauthority.ca/hydraulic-elevators/non-compliant-units. This list will be updated regularly as owners comply with safety requirements. Occupants are encouraged to verify the status of their building regularly. Non-compliant owners are encouraged to post notices in their buildings, so occupants and users are aware of the potential for shut-down. Barring any observed hazards, the process to remove the elevating unit from service will not begin before March 14, 2016. This will provide sufficient advance notice to building owners and occupants in order to allow for alternative arrangements to be made.
- What is BCSA doing to make sure that people will not be put at even greater risk by shutting down the elevator?
BCSA’s top priority is safety. We understand that this situation will likely cause some people difficulties. As long as there are no observed hazards, we will provide advanced notice for affected users to make alternative arrangements before removing elevators from service.
- What recourse do people affected by the shutdown of an elevator (e.g. tenants) have against an owner who fails to make the necessary upgrade?
The Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC) has provided an information notice for affected tenants. Affected tenants may wish to consult the Residential Tenancy Branch of the provincial government and TRAC directly for dispute resolution services:
Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC) (http://tenants.bc.ca)
604-255-0546 or 1-800-665-1185
Mon – Fri: 8am - 4pm
Residential Tenancy Branch
604-660-1020 (Lower Mainland)
1-800-665-8779 (elsewhere in BC)
Mon – Fri: 9am - 4pm
- What is BCSA doing to make sure that people affected by the potential shutdown of an elevator (e.g. tenants) are aware of this issue?
As long as there are no observed hazards, BCSA will work to provide advance notice for affected users to make alternative arrangements before removing non-compliant elevators from service, including posting of notifications, public announcements and awareness campaigns.
- How much of a monetary penalty will BCSA issue to an owner of a non-compliant single bottom cylinder elevator?
BCSA intends to issue monetary penalties of $15,000 against owners who fail to engage a licensed elevating device contractor and obtain a variance for extension to the original required completion date by January 28, 2016.
- Can the owner of a non-compliant single bottom cylinder elevator appeal the issuance of a monetary penalty?
Yes. Enforcement decisions by Provincial Safety Managers, including issuance of monetary penalties, may be appealed to the independent Safety Standards Appeal Board within 30 days of the Provincial Safety Manager’s decision.
- What if the owner of a non-compliant single bottom cylinder elevator does not pay the monetary penalty?
BCSA enforcement actions, including the issuance of monetary penalties, are enforceable in a court of law.
- Will BCSA publish a list of owners who receive monetary penalties for not complying with the safety order?
BCSA publishes final enforcement actions in its annual State of Safety Report, including monetary penalties. Because provincial legislation restricts the information that may be published with respect to individuals, BCSA may provide descriptions of enforcement actions taken but may not identify individuals by name.
- Will BCSA issue monetary penalties to licensed elevating device contractors who are under contract to maintain non-compliant single bottom cylinder elevators?
BCSA will consider enforcement actions, including the issuance of monetary penalties, against any licensed elevating device contractor who neglects their safety responsibilities. The owners of the elevators are ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of their units.