A reflection on the accident in Madrid

Last week in Madrid, two young people died after falling down the lift shaft, when apparently one of the walls of the cabin gave away for reasons that are not clear yet. The youth of the victims, as well as the strangeness of the accident, have shocked the entire Spanish society.

Beyond the grief overwhelming us because of the unfortunate accident, this is an opportunity for us, as a serious industry with a long tradition, to stop and revise the processes self-critically. It goes without saying that the level of professionality and rigour of elevator companies in Spain is beyond doubt, which is demonstrated by the minimum level of accidents in the country with more elevators in the world.

The process begins with the quality of the design of the very elevation solution. Any change on existing elevators must be preceded by a specialized engineering study that foresees with detail the consequences of modifying the original designs. The design of special elevators or components used in modernizations of existing elevators always brings additional difficulties that must be respected and in no case sacrificed for other reasons.

The manufacture, of special solutions in particular, whether it is elevators or components, must be performed without sparing any resources or materials and taking into account the final assembly to be performed by other people.

Unlike other type of machinery, elevators don’t exist as such before they are installed in their corresponding shaft. Until then, we have a design, some documentation and a set of components. The installation of an elevator or a component is therefore a critical moment of the process subjected to an ensemble of detailed final verifications.

Finally, the regular preventive maintenance with almost monthly visits forces us to be attentive and check the safety of the elevator. We must not let price pressure make us compromise the quality of our maintenance service. And in the absence of rules that detail the technical content of every inspection visit, it is elevator companies that must maintain the level of dedication existing before the crisis.

Last week we saw different announcements and statements. In one of them, a trade union mentioned that they had been a long time denouncing the “excessive workload of maintenance workers which, in the last years, had increased from 75 to 150 elevators a month, and in some cases, up to 200 elevators”.

The level of safety mustn’t be lowered at any point of the chain for any other reasons. On top of this, we must learn to convince all the members of the purchase decision unit, whether they are developers, constructors, architects, property managers, neighbour communities or elevator owners, that it is not worth saving on this chapter.

As long as it helps us improve, all feedback from both inside and outside of the industry is welcome. Even though there isn’t such a thing as zero risk, and we know that many tragic circumstances must coincide so that an accident like this one occurs again, we must work with pride and responsibility in each step of the process so that sad events like the one that happened in Madrid last week are the last ones.

(Leer en español)