Even if small damage is found in just one cable, all should be replaced. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: Whenever May takes the lift in her apartment building, she can’t help but worry.

The building, after all, is one of the oldest in the Al Nahda area and all three lifts are in bad shape, according to tenants.

“I get scared every time I use our lift. I’m always afraid because I’m unsure if I’ll come out alive or not,” May, 30, a Filipino engineer, told Gulf News.

May said the lift has a record of stopping between floors and locking riders inside for a few minutes.

“One time I was inside along with four other male tenants. On our way up, the lift came to a halt, the light went off. We tried to open the door and we saw we were in between the second and third floors, but there was no way we could get out.”

“I was really scared then because I felt really vulnerable. I just hugged myself while the men tried their best to get us out of the lift. We were there for about 15 minutes,” she said.

Rogelio Rico, an architect who lives in the same building, said elevator rides in that building are always bumpy.

“It feels like the lift is literally being shaken by someone. You feel like you’re inside a ship and the waves are pounding on it,” Rico, 42, said.

“In many instances, the door won’t shut. Or worse, from outside, we’d always hear people banging the elevator doors and screaming for help from inside. That’s a sign someone got stuck again and the cycle just repeats,” he added.

Both tenants said what they fear the most is if the elevator cable suddenly snaps, causing the lift to fall to the ground. Their fears, however, are not unfounded.

In August 2012, an Iraqi family, including their four-year-old son, sustained serious injuries when their lift plunged from the seventh floor to the basement of a 15-year-old building. Police said the fall was due to a broken cable.

Following the incident, Sharjah Municipality reportedly decided to make annual elevator maintenance mandatory for commercial and residential buildings. All maintenance should only be made with a company approved by Civil Defence.But another lift fell three months later.

On December 31, nine people, including four children, were injured when their lift plummeted to the ground from the sixth floor of a building in Al Khan area. Sharjah police said the elevator fell because its cable snapped.


Mohammad Zameer, Technical Manager at Al Jar International Elevator, said elevators are inherently safe to use unless they are poorly maintained. Zameer’s company supplies, installs, maintains, repairs and modernises lifts, escalators, and moving walkways around the country.

“If the lift maintenance is done in the proper way, you can avoid accidents. A lift may fall if it is maintained by non-standard companies. This could happen if the maintenance company is careless,” Zameer told Gulf News.

“If we take for example the ropes, which are a major part of the elevator, if we find even just a small damage, we recommend that all the ropes be replaced right away,” Zameer added.


If the building management refuses to act on the problem, Zameer said they deactivate the lift as per their policy until the problem is resolved. The same policy is being followed by ATES, an engineering company that services around 400 elevators in the UAE.

Santhosh Kumar, who works as a technical manager of the elevator division at ATES, told Gulf News that there’s no room for complacency when it comes to ensuring safety.

“If even a small damage is found in just one cable, we recommend that all the ropes be replaced.

“It is important that all the cables take the same load. If one cable is damaged, the other cables will have disproportionate load and this could affect elevator balance,” Kumar said.

Both safety experts recommended proper preventive maintenance to be done regularly or at least once a month.

“Just as regular maintenance is needed for cars, it is also very important for lifts. But lifts act more like a taxi because it carries passengers. There is a third party at risk,” Zameer said.

A lift cable’s average lifespan depends on its usage and maintenance.

A 10-storey commercial building, for example, whose lifts are properly maintained, will have no cable problems for about 10 years. The older the building, though, the more it will need maintenance.

“If the lift is very old, then the safety condition becomes poor. If a lift is more than 15 years old, it has to be modernised,” Zameer said. Modernisation means replacing all the old components of the lift with new ones.