Many share experiences of getting stuck in lifts

Yangyel Lhaden

Pema Yangzom, a student, will never forget the Japanese restaurant she visited earlier this year. Late to a gathering of friends, she took the lift to the restaurant. She got stuck. After a few minutes, she was rescued.

“I am never going to use lifts,” Pema Yangzom said. She has now developed a phobia for lifts, also called elevators.

With buildings becoming taller and owners adding facilities like lifts to attract tenants and make life comfortable, lifts have become a common feature in many buildings. Getting stuck in them is also a common experience many share.


Mandatory lift rule has been relaxed

Sonam prefers climbing the stairs to the fifth floor after her frightful experience late one night last year. She was working late and took the lift down. She got stuck for about 30 minutes. “The lift’s door opened partially and I climbed to the floor above,” she said. That was the last time she took the lift.

Another Thimphu resident, Sonam Tashi has his office on the sixth floor of a building. He said that he uses lift about 10 times a day. Last Monday, he got stuck with a friend in the lift. This was his second time. Sonam Tashi knows what to do if he gets stuck. “I insert a key between the lift door and it opens,” he said.

The Bhutan Building Rules 2002 once made lifts a compulsory feature in buildings that are more than five storied tall. The general observation, however, is that lifts in Bhutan, especially in private buildings are not safe. A study in 2018 confirmed this fear. A study carried out by Bhutan Standards Bureau in 2018, found out that lift services in the country did not meet safety requirements. It was found out that only 25 percent of the lifts installed in the country complied with Indian Standards.  There is no Bhutanese standard.

The requirements are where the lifts are to be used frequently, the information on carrying capacity, environment, and rush hour/time in day, safety and designs. However, lifts in Bhutan are mostly installed without considering these requirements. When Rinchen Dorji got stuck in a lift, the only number available to call was a Thai number on the walls of the lift.

South Thimphu’s representative to the thromde, Namgay Tshering said that not all building owners compiled with the rule and lifts did not ease service delivery. By compiling people’s feedback on the lifts, the requirement to compulsory install lifts had been lifted, he said.

“According to the preference of the building owner, even a two-storied building could install lifts,” he said.

While those who avail lift services said that reliability of the lifts was a major issue, landlords said that maintenance was a problem. Pema Tshering, the owner of Dewa Khangzang building in Thimphu said that servicing of lifts in his building could not take place this year. Technicians of the company owners buy lifts from, do the servicing and maintenance, but due to Covid-19 they could not come, he said. Similarly most lifts in Thimphu did not have any services done this year.

There are local people doing maintenance of the lifts but owners who have installed brands such as Thyssenkrupp and Escon sign an annual maintenance contract with the suppliers. Due to which they cannot avail local service for maintenance.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires lifts to be inspected every six months.