A severe shortage of maintenance engineers is threatening the safety of elevators in one of the world’s most densely-packed high rise cities.
A survey released by the Shanghai Association for Quality (SAQ) found that there are only around 3,000 maintenance engineers available to perform regular inspection and maintenance work on the approximately 160,000 elevators operating in high-rise buildings in the city.
These figures reach a mere quarter of the number mandated by national standards.
Han Heying, a senior official from the Shanghai Elevator Trade Association, told state newspaper Global Times that the situation could very well worsen given the ongoing increase in the number of elevators in the city.
According to Han, the number of elevators in Shanghai is increasing by between 10 to 15 per cent a year, necessitating an even greater increase in the number of maintenance engineers if safety standards are to be properly observed.
"Under national standards each maintenance worker should be looking after no more than 25 elevators," Han said. "It's impossible to meet the standard now."
The issue of elevator safety has received increased media attention in China of late following the occurrence of a number of high-profile accidents in the country last year. One incident led to the death of a woman in a department store after she plunged six floors down an elevator shaft.
Elevator safety is an issue of particular concern in Shanghai, China's most populous city, given the huge number of high-rise buildings it now hosts. Shanghai is currently the city in the world with the fourth largest number of skyscrapers and is home to 127 buildings standing over 150 metres in height.
According to figures from the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision, there have been 18 elevator-related deaths in the city since 2006, two of which occurred just last year.
The Shanghai Elevator Trade Association has imputed the shortage of elevator engineers to their low wages, which are currently only around 3000 yuan (approx. $490) a month. This is considered low pay for technical staff, especially in a city like Shanghai where living costs are elevated.
Members of the industry also struggle as a result of low fee standards, with the monthly maintenance charge for 30 per cent of elevators in residential compound at less than 300 yuan. The Association recommends that minimum maintenance fee for individual elevators should be pegged at 500 yuan per month.
Property management companies are also to blame for hazards in relation to elevator operation, with Qin Jiong, director of the general office of the Shanghai Elevator Trade Association, accusing them of skimping on maintenance due to a legislative oversight, or using low-cost, under-qualified maintenance providers.