In the business of safety at Schindler Lifts
Regular lift maintenance boosts reliability, but a reliable lift with almost 100 percent uptime does not guarantee that it meets safety standards. Facility Management talks to Mark Sinni about the stringent annual safety inspections that are mandatory at Schindler Lifts.
‘Do I really need to fix this?’ A thought that many car owners have had when given a list of repairs required in order to get a roadworthy certificate. It’s not the best news one can get, but we bite the bullet and do what’s necessary because, if not, lives could be at risk. Lifts are a form of mass transport, yet, by legislation, safety checks are not mandatory. Schindler Lifts has made safety its priority, refusing to compromise on this aspect with its global safety program known as Confirmation of Periodic Safety Inspections (CPSI) ensuring that 100 percent of its maintained passenger lifts are certified as safe, every year.
Since its launch in 2007, a CPSI has been carried out on all Schindler lifts on a yearly basis by Schindler technicians, all of whom are CPSI certified. Every lift in the portfolio also goes through a second, more detailed, check every five years by a CPSI safety inspector, followed by random checks by international auditors. CPSI is a seven-step process comprising more than 60 individual tests and checks on components including:machine brakes
- landing doors
- car door electrical contacts
- safety gear and speed governor
- hoistway slow down speed monitoring devices
- safety circuits, and
- in-car communication device.
Facility Management: Tell us about your role as a CPSI safety inspector. How is that different from a lift technician?
Mark Sinni: I’ve been in this industry for 30 years and started out as a lift technician. CPSI was initially introduced in Australia as a yearly check by certified technicians. How CPSI checks differ from your regular servicing and maintenance works is that it prioritises the critical safety elements, which in turn leads to increased reliability. Intuitively, one might think that servicing for reliability would equate to safety, but occasionally things can fall through the cracks. It’s human nature to become complacent with certain aspects if you keep doing the same processes over and over again without someone else checking your work. Shortly after the yearly checks were introduced, Schindler decided it wanted an additional layer of checks and selected a few technicians to lead as CPSI safety inspectors. These safety inspectors differ from service technicians as they only inspect for safety.
So what does it take to be a CPSI safety inspector?
All inspectors have done extra courses on top of the mandatory CPSI training for Schindler service technicians. Inspectors are required to specialise in the three major safety components – brakes, speed governors and safety equipment. What I do as a safety inspector is inspect every lift that Schindler maintains in Victoria and conduct safety checks within a five-year cycle. CPSI safety inspectors do not perform regular maintenance services, which remove us from the daily operations that may cloud our judgement when performing checks. An estimate of how many lifts I work on would be about 2500 lifts in total, 400 to 500 a year in a five-year cycle. I’m in my sixth year as a safety inspector, so I’m back at the start of the list, which is also constantly growing as the company grows.
What are the hallmarks of a certified safe lift?
What I would deem a certified safe lift would be when all the major components of a lift never deviate from within their defined safety tolerances. ‘Never’ is a big word, but if you look at it practically, Schindler ensures that every lift gets its regular maintenance services, plus a yearly CPSI check and then a more detailed CPSI check by a highly qualified CPSI safety inspector after five years. Schindler is essentially checking well over and above what a typical lift industry service technician would normally check, in much more detail and depth. I think this is more than adequate to qualify that the lifts that Schindler maintains are certified as a safe lifts.
Is this attention to safety something prevalent in the industry?
To my knowledge, the other companies have programs, but term it differently. Schindler is the only one with a comprehensive checklist, put together by the experts who engineered the machinery. This checklist also constantly evolves; it hasn’t stayed static since its introduction in 2007. What this program is in a nutshell is a peer-checking safety program.
So now that you’ve finished a five-year cycle, what are the results like?
CPSI recommendations focus on safety and, I can tell you, having gone through every lift in our portfolio, the difference between non-conformances from five years ago and now is chalk and cheese. I’m talking about lifts that were originally in our portfolio from the start and not just recoveries (a ‘recovery’ is a lift previously maintained by a different company that has been picked up by Schindler). There have also been a number of reliability improvements made as a result of recommendations made by CPSI safety inspectors, so the program is definitely yielding positive results.
So what do customers think of CPSI? Do they like it or think of it as a ‘nice to have’ but unnecessary step in lift maintenance?
Initially, it was a problem for some customers. Imagine the car workshop ringing you to let you know that your routine engine oil change will now involve a full engine rebuild. From the customer’s perspective, everything is working fine as reliability is fine, but they don’t realise that CPSI does not check for reliability, it checks for safety. Safety components are rarely used; however, when they are needed, it is essential that they are operating correctly. As an added benefit, having a lift that complies with our safety standards will often further improve the reliability of the unit.
Could you explain the purpose of the 60-point checklist?
As I said, I’ve been working on lifts for 30 years and I can tell you that, personally, I’ve learned more about lifts in the last five years than the previous 25. Feedback from my colleagues is that we’re picking up on a lot of things that technicians previously would not have been aware of. This checklist is tailor-made for our equipment, machinery and technology. Some might think it superfluous to have such a thorough checklist, but every point is absolutely imperative for consistent checks, each time, every time, no matter which service personnel is working on your lift.
Why the emphasis on safety? Any reason behind this?
The service industry has changed in the last two decades and safety standards have changed too. [There was a] government body called DLI (Department of Labour and Industry), which preceded WorkSafe inspectors. DLI and subsequently WorkSafe were responsible for conducting safety tests before elevators went into service. Back then technicians did not have to concern themselves with conducting safety checks. When DLI/Worksafe inspectors ceased to be, the onus fell onto service providers to conduct safety checks. Without legislation and an increasing number of subcontractors entering the market and installing lifts without conducting the necessary safety checks, we were left with a situation where there was a substantial amount of equipment operating at sub-standard safety levels. Essentially, CPSI is doing what DLI or WorkSafe used to do, ensuring that all of these safety checks are in place.
You mentioned recoveries earlier, could you expand on these?
Recoveries are lifts that are added to our portfolio when clients who employed the services of another lift company to install their equipment decide to hire Schindler for their lift maintenance needs. In the first 12 months of receiving a recovery, the lift is scheduled for a combined one- and five-year CPSI test by a CPSI safety inspector. This is the most intense and detailed check available. The objective is to ensure that the lift is safe for both passengers and service technicians working on the lift. What I have found is that, statistically, recoveries comprise the bulk of non-conforming items identified from CPSIs on lifts in comparison to our maintenance portfolio. I believe this shows that our CPSI program is having a substantial impact on the safety of the equipment that we maintain.
Tell us more about the issues picked up during CPSI checks.
The most common problems that we experience with recoveries are non-conforming door safety and worn brakes. This is why our checklist is so essential. There are a lot of skilled and experienced service technicians out there, regardless of which company they work for, but without a checklist, you’re relying on a person’s intuition, enthusiasm and experience. Even the best of us can have a bad day. Education, procedures and consistency are keys to resolving this difference and disparity in terms of service quality.
Self-checking and cross-checking – some may think it’s just too excessive; any last words for your detractors?
Instead of trying to convince them, I’ll cite a tried and tested study. In 2009, The Guardian reported that eight hospitals in England including St Mary’s in London found a 40 percent reduction in errors, which could potentially lead to patient deaths when the team (this includes everyone from nurses to surgeons) used a checklist. In 2010 they indicated that gaps in teamwork and safety practices in surgery are substantial in countries both rich and poor. So if hospitals that are in the business of saving lives in a time-crucial environment insist on using checklists, why not the lift industry? After all, CPSI checks carry no extra charge and are done purely because safety is our business.
This article appeared in the February/March issue of Facility Management as part of a content partnership program with Schindler Lifts. Mark Sinni is a CPSI safety inspector at Schindler Lifts Australia. He has more than 30 years experience in the industry.