The elevator: More than just a good ride

Most elevator breakdowns are a result of door issues/PHOTOs/

What you need to know:

Elevators are in use in many buildings, both commercial and residential, and looking out to ensure they are in good working order is key for public safety in general

A daily casual lookaround in addition to a more thorough periodical inspection will help a building owner to spot any warning signs of damage or impending elevator malfunction. Elevators are in use in many buildings, both commercial and residential, and looking out to ensure they are in good working order is key for public safety in general.

Elevators or lifts are installed in residential, commercial or retail properties that rise up to an average of four to five floors.

On the surface, an elevator is just a metal box where one enters to press buttons and is ushered to a given floor of a building, but save for the visible box, a door and buttons, there is more to an elevator.

Samson Oluoch Onyango, a project engineer at KONE Uganda Limited says different types of elevators exist depending on the usage.  He adds that elevators are ideal for all buildings and any building with more than four floors is required to have an elevator. The overall functioning of an elevator is totally interesting.

“The capacity of the lift required for a certain building is determined through analysis of a building’s traffic flow and the energy consumed varies over a wide range from a small capacity kitchen lift for ferrying food or bank lifts for ferrying money from one floor to the next, to large capacity elevators for example car parking lifts and hospital bed lifts,” Oluoch says.

 “Here we have passenger lifts, goods lifts, firefighting lifts, beds lifts etc. None of them is better than the other as the type of building determines the type of elevator to be installed,” he adds.

Oluoch says that depending on the source of the driving power, elevators function differently but the traction is the commonest elevator type.

It involves a cabin (passenger space) connected to a counter weight via a driving motor, using steel ropes or belts. Depending on the directional rotation of the motor, the cabin (car) moves up or down the lift shaft while the counterweight moves in the opposite direction.

Elevator and house plan

Oluoch says it is advisable to consult with the particular elevator provider you have settled on before constructing the building, as different suppliers require specific plans to build the lift shaft.

However, he adds that this is not a must as basic requirements are the same across the board and the specific requirements are adjustable to a certain extent depending on other factors including government regulations (which vary depending on the country).

Meanwhile, Baker Mwesigwa, an engineer at Mwesigwa Constructions, says a lift can be added to an already existing building or even replaced.

Whether modern or traditional, they need to be able to match the existing interior design.

He says unlike elevators on commercial buildings, residential elevators do not require a fixed amount of space.

 He adds that for easy access, there are some locations of preference where home elevators should be installed to benefit the users.

These include; close to the stairs or a clear open space that is easy to access with no disturbing walkways.

“Home elevators should be installed in easy to access places to avoid disturbance,” Mwesigwa says.

Elevator maintenance

To ensure optimal operation, an elevator system requires regular inspection and testing.

Failing to have routine inspections performed by a qualified elevator professional can lead to shutdowns, which can ultimately cause safety concerns.

Mwesigwa says every elevator will have its own maintenance control plan, and the documents can change in the event of recalls, replacements or uselessness.

“A maintenance control plan consists of features such as recommended intervals for servicing and testing, directions for how to maintain the equipment and code extracts for proper maintenance which all have to be professionally upheld depending on the country regulations,” he says.

Meanwhile Oluoch also confirms that elevator maintenance is crucial.

“We have an in-depth and elaborate modular based maintenance schedule which understands that different components of the lift require maintenance at different intervals,” Oluoch told Daily Monitor.

“Most elevator breakdowns come from door issues while only about 0.5 per cent of callouts come from the motor. This implies that the number of times you need to maintain the doors is higher than in the motor for optimum operation of the equipment. Our system allows for maintenance each month, this does not include call outs, repairs and audits,” he says.

Oluoch adds that the costs of installation varies depending on the type of equipment, capacity and add-ons like (cctv, all time access control, connect/info screen etc.)

 Repair costs also vary depending on the cost of the components under repair and the duration needed for the repair.

Meanwhile Harriet Nagawa, a resident of Najjera, who has an elevator on her four storeyed building, recommends daily lookout for any possible failure as well as putting in practice all the dos and don’ts as specified by the installation and manufacturing company to avoid elevator malfunction.

“While you don’t have to scrutinise every aspect of your elevator, it is a great idea to inspect your elevator daily as you use it,” she said.

Among what is to be regularly monitored include;   the proper functioning of all the buttons, whether the door closes and opens properly or any other interior damage.

Elevator malfunction

On many occasions we have heard of people getting stuck in elevators and Nagawa says the cause can be anything from a bad motor to a blown fuse.

Victims of elevator accidents may suffer serious injuries and other significant losses hence a need to check out for any likely malfunction of an elevator.

Some of the elevator malfunctions include; a pulley shift or defect that causes elevators to drop rapidly within the shaft.

An open shaft, faulty doors, unbalancing levelling or other failures may not protect passengers upon entry.

Other defects include faulty wiring, elevator control malfunction or risk of electrocution.

Unqualified personnel cause defects by conducting incomplete repairs, maintenance or inspections, according to Oluoch.

 “A lot of factors can interfere with the optimum operation of the elevator. This ranges from elevator use and misuse, quality of installation, quality of maintenance, wear and tear, time factor and other factors,” he says.

However he adds that their company’s elevators equipped with Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) will continue operating while those equipped with Emergency Battery Drive (EBD) will stop then the EBD will take charge and drive the unit to the next nearest floor and open the doors to ensure no entrapment occurs.

He adds that currently new installations come with EBD while the old installations are upgraded with EBD.

Handling customers, most of whom do not understand the technicalities of the elevator operation, is among the challenges faced by elevator technicians according to Oluoch.

Meanwhile Mwesigwa says elevator emergencies may sometimes be inevitable and hence calls for calm among users.

 “You should stay calm, do not tamper with anything or even open the elevator door, instead  push the emergency button or use the intercom or phone provided to contact the emergency service, who will let you know what to do and can find you safely and quickly,”  Mwesigwa advises.

Dos and don’ts on elevators

The Dos

● If the elevator is full, wait for the next ride

● When riding the elevator, stand in the back of the car facing forward.

● Watch your step when entering or exiting the elevator, as it may not be level with the ground.

● If the elevator gets stuck, push the alarm/call button and wait for help.

● Children and pets should always be accompanied by adults while using the elevator.


● Do not use elevators in case of fire or other emergency

● Do not place anything including your hands between or on the elevator doors, and do not lean on the doors.

● Do not attempt to force the elevator doors open

● Do not play in or around the elevator.