Onwards and upwards

Nick Mellor

Nick Mellor explores the regulations around lifts and elevators, including standards for new and existing equipment.

At the time of writing, we are considering changes to regulations very much through the prism of Brexit; whether after the end of a transition following ratification of the withdrawal agreement, or if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

The impact would be felt mostly on new equipment, where the regulations covering new lifts, escalators, moving walks, lifting platforms and stairlifts are based on EU Directives. This feature explores these issues and also developments on standards supporting the regulations.

Lifts being placed into use must conform to the Lifts Regulations 2016 while escalators, moving walkways, lifting platforms, goods only lifts and stairlifts come under the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 (SMSR). These regulations rest on the EU Lifts Directive and Machinery Directive respectively. Once the UK leaves the EU after a transition or with no deal, the UK regulations would be amended; however, their essential safety requirements would be unchanged from the current EU Directives.

There would be implications for installers and manufacturers for the use of the UK conformity assessment mark – the UKCA mark – where the equipment meets the requirements of the UK regulations. The CE mark would still be recognised for a limited time if the equipment has met the EU requirements.

Looking further into the future, the government department BEIS and HSE share our view that any future changes in the regulations should not reduce levels of safety.

Standards for new equipment

Underlying the regulations for lifts – and giving a presumption of conformity to their safety requirements – are harmonised standards such as BS EN 81-20 which is the base safety standard for lifts. Following the full implementation of BS EN 81-20 in 2017, several standards in the EN 81 family have been revised to keep in step with BS EN 81-20.

One very important new standard published recently is BS EN 81-70 for lifts to access buildings for those with disabilities. The new EN 81-70 includes details of new car sizes which allow turning by passengers in wheelchairs, new requirements for the light reflectance values (LRVs) at lift controls, and requirements for lifts with destination control using new technology such as touch screens.

While BS EN 81-20 covers new lifts in new buildings, there are situations where a new lift in an existing building cannot fully comply – usually with the refuge spaces in the pit and headroom. BS EN 81-21 has been revised and provides solutions where the pit depth or headroom available does not allow the refuge spaces specified in BS EN 81-20. BS EN 81-21 is not applicable to new lifts in new buildings so where the refuge spaces in a new building do not meet those in BS EN 81-20, derogation is needed for the use of BS EN 81-21.

The harmonised standard for escalators and moving walks, BS EN 115-1 has also recently had a new version implemented. There is also a standard for the improvement of safety of existing escalators, BS EN 115-2 which is being updated.

So the key new equipment standards are BS EN standards – European standards adopted as British Standards as part of BSI’s (British Standards Institution) membership of European standardization bodies CEN and CENELEC. These bodies are not part of the EU (they are private organisations which prepare harmonised standards under a mandate from the European Commission). BSI has obtained agreements which secure its future membership after Brexit.

This provides for the continued use of the BS EN standards we have used and contributed to, maintains at least the existing levels off safety and prevents a possible “de-harmonisation” of the safety standards used for new equipment.

Existing equipment will continue to come under UK regulations so there will be little impact from Brexit. The regulations, under the umbrella of the Health and Safety at Work Act, define a regime for the maintenance and independent thorough examination of equipment.

While no changes are expected in the short term, we would urge the HSE to look at strengthening the regulatory regime in areas where evidence points to areas of concern. In particular, we believe that a more robust regime is needed for maintenance of existing equipment and also for the thorough examination of escalators – to bring them more in line with the requirements for lifts.

Nick Mellor is managing director of the Lift & Escalator Industry Association (LEIA) and LIFTEX 2019

Picture credit: iStock/Baloncici

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