More than 900,000 elevators are in operation across the United States, according to the Building Transportation Profile 2010. Together, they require at least 21.6 million hours of elevator maintenance annually, assuming (per industry norms) a minimum of two hours of maintenance per elevator, per month. Many facility managers contract with outside elevator maintenance firms. While most of these companies employ qualified individuals who want to do a good job, experts say they've seen varying levels of service quality. To ensure that their elevators operate reliably and safely, facility managers should be able to accurately assess the outside elevator maintenance programs being carried out on their equipment, because consistent maintenance is critical to uninterrupted operation.
It's critical that this maintenance be carried out regularly and effectively. Safety, of course, is the primary consideration. While incidents of catastrophic accidents are — fortunately — low, haphazard general maintenance can lead to events like trip-and-falls if elevator doors no longer open level with the floor, says Andy Kohl, consultant with The Elevator Consultants.
Consistent maintenance also contributes to the reliability and lifespan of the equipment. "When an elevator is properly maintained from day one, you have a minimum amount of problems,' says Robert Cuzzi, executive vice president and principal with consulting firm Van Deusen & Associates.
Despite the importance of quality elevator upkeep, this can be one function about which facility managers don't know as much as they could. "Building owners and managers say elevators are the one item in the building that is a black hole,' Kohl says.
A starting point for any elevator maintenance program is the safety code that's used, at times with modifications, by jurisdictions across the country. This is ASME's Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators.
Section 18.104.22.168.1 of the code states that "a written Maintenance Control Program shall be in place to maintain the equipment.' The maintenance program has to include examinations, maintenance, and tests of equipment at scheduled intervals. These activities are to be based on equipment age, condition, and accumulated wear, among other factors.
While the code requires a written maintenance program, some contractors keep the documents at their own offices. Of course, that can make it difficult for the facility manager to review and access the information, such as checklists showing which tasks the contractor has completed on each visit.
To minimize the risk of this occurring, the contract between the building owner and elevator contractor should require the maintenance and repair records to remain in the machine room or another convenient location within the facility, says Joseph Donnelly, consultant with Donnelly & Associates. "Make sure this gets in the contract and hold them to it.'
As an extra precaution, the building owner should keep its own records, says Cuzzi.
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