Elevator industry grounded

“We must not wait until disaster strikes ‘ one death is not acceptable,” says Richard Sadomba of CB Richard Ellis Property Managers. There have been fatal accidents at the Millennium Towers and Hurudza House in Harare high-rise buildings and stakeholders expressed concerns they were being short-changed by service providers. “When we manage buildings as agents, we manage them as our own, to maintain or increase the value of the building” – by looking at the building structure and fabric and maintaining the service installations. Theses include fire services, water reticulation and escalator services. If these are not maintained, the value of the building plummets and tenants may resist paying rents or worse, move out. As a result this may drastically affect the cash flow or return on investments of the real owners “and ewe will have failed as property managers”. Ian Mataure, a consulting engineer, gave a chilling (and morbid) scenario citing instances where cadavers are being hoisted and lowered down through windows of hospitals using ropes because elevators are not working. Turning to the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), as the health and safety regulating authority, speakers – from the insurance, industry, property managers, engineers, and tenants – urged the authority to be more professional, consistent and regular in enforcing compliance in the industry. Sadomba also highlighted instances of “unprofessionalism” due to the shortage of foreign exchange leading to one of the only two service providers in the country engaging in “unsavoury” activities involving swapping of spares from different lifts to different lifts in different companies. He insisted that NSSA increase the frequency of its inspection schedules to more than once a year. Suspicions of corruption surfaced, with some property owners finding it worrisome that increased instances of defective elevators are on the rise but the same service providers still retain their “clean bill of health” certificates from the regulatory authorities. “Is something going on between NSSA’s inspectorate department and (some of the) service providers? Mataure wondered. But NSSA’s Zengeya refuted allegations and insinuations of anything untoward in their operations. “Zimbabwe has among the best safety records in the region,” he told the meeting. But participants were not impressed, querying with whom he was benchmarking the standards. “We can not compare ourselves with a country coming from a war situation,” and ” after all even a single death is still not acceptable”. And engineer Mataure maintained and insisted that there is need for more competition in the industry, especially this time when there are serious problems in the passenger lifting and industrial hoisting industry.

March 2006
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