Ontario aims to cut down on elevator outages with new law

Ontario aims to reduce elevator outages under legislation introduced Thursday that would make the province one of the first jurisdictions in the world to establish standards for elevator repair times.

'Access to reliable elevators is a necessity,' says Consumer Services minister

A new bill was introduced Thursday which aims to reduce elevator outages in Ontario.

Ontario aims to reduce elevator outages under legislation introduced Thursday that would make the province one of the first jurisdictions in the world to establish standards for elevator repair times.

The new law, if passed, would improve user access to elevators by, among other things, beefing up enforcement of maintenance requirements.

It would also allow publication of information about elevator performance to inform consumers before they rent or buy an apartment or condo.

The legislation, introduced by Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles, is part of a broader bill that also aims to enhance consumer control over credit information.

"Access to reliable elevators is a necessity and, in some instances, a lifeline," MacCharles said in a statement. "Our proposed new rules for consumer reporting agencies and elevators would, if passed, help give Ontario consumers more information about things that we rely on in our daily lives."

Other proposed measures include creating standards for new high-rise buildings to ensure they have enough elevators to adequately serve residents. If the bill is passed, Ontario would consult with the public and businesses in development of these standards, the government said.

Thousands of people left trapped annually

The Canadian Press has found growing issues with elevator outages across the country that leave thousands of people trapped each year or essentially stranded on upper floors of their homes. Latest figures obtained show firefighters in Ontario responded to 4,577 calls by people trapped in elevators in 2016.

Ontario's 20,000 elevators in residential and institutional buildings, including long-term care and retirement homes, were the subject of an in-depth study last year led by retired justice Douglas Cunningham, who made 19 recommendations in his final report released last month. The government said it planned to follow up on all of them.

In his 57-page report, Cunningham found Ontario has no minimum preventive maintenance standards and that only one in five elevators in the province are in compliance with safety standards. Cunningham blamed poor preventive maintenance as the key cause of unscheduled breakdowns.

According to his study, one in five respondents said they had an elevator out of service for 18 days or more in any given year. Condominiums reported the biggest availability problem.

Cunningham recommended forcing contractors to report outages over 48 hours or when half the elevators in a building are out of service — 80 per cent of buildings have only one or two lifts. His report also identified a shortage of elevator mechanics, something the government said it intended to tackle.

Rob Isabelle, an elevator consultant, said contractor participation would be vital in ensuring the proposed measures succeed.

"However there are little to no benefits to the contractors, thus why support?" Isabelle said recently.

Doug Guderian, president of Elevator One based in Barrie, Ont., has noted Cunningham's report found the big four elevator contractors — Kone, Otis, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp — own about 75 per cent of the market but employ only about 40 per cent of mechanics. His own surveys, he said, confirm the big four typically are unable to do the necessary work.