Wednesday, July 24, 2024
SocietySafety stuck on floor 1: Addis' neglected elevators

Safety stuck on floor 1: Addis’ neglected elevators

Before properly looking at how elevators in neighboring countries are regulated, it always left me wondering why elevators in Ethiopia seemed to be left unregulated. The state of elevator safety standards in Addis Ababa is concerning. It’s common to find elevators that get stuck seemingly every time you take them. They clearly are not maintained well and do not seem to adhere to any regular safety inspections.

I still remember vividly the first time I took an elevator here in Addis Ababa a few years ago. As the metal doors slid closed and it began its ascent, a horrific grinding and groaning sound filled the small interior. The entire contraption seemed on the verge of collapse. My heart was pounding as I prayed it would not break down between floors, leaving me trapped inside. When the doors finally jerked open on my floor, I rushed out as fast as possible, swearing to never take that death trap again.

Since that frightening experience, I have avoided elevators here in Addis whenever possible, choosing to take the stairs instead no matter how many flights. But for those with physical limitations or heavy packages, the elevators are often the only option for vertical travel in these rapidly growing high-rise buildings. Yet the state of disrepair and lack of safety standards continue to endanger lives. As more construction projects add additional elevators throughout the city, proper regulation and oversight is urgently needed but seemingly non-existent.

In neighboring Nairobi, Kenya, the situation is quite different. Their buildings require regular inspections and certification proving elevators are fit for safe use by the public. A large sign is posted at the entrance informing of the date of the last audit and safety verification. Repairs are addressed promptly to avoid lapses in compliance. Penalties exist to incentivize maintenance and deter reckless endangerment of passengers. These reasonable standards protect Kenyan citizens and establish trust that time spent inside a lift will not end in catastrophe.

Why have similar protocols not been enacted here? Ethiopia is developing rapidly but cannot continue to neglect regulations that directly impact human life. Updates to elevator infrastructure must occur concurrently with construction booms. Officials must be held accountable for passenger welfare, not just occupancy permits and tax revenue from new developments. A certification process administered by qualified technicians would verify equipment is functioning properly and address any issues before further deterioration. Standard operating procedures should mandate routine maintenance schedules, emergency response plans, and staff training. Surprise inspections could catch unscrupulous building managers skimping on safety to save money.

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Accidents are inevitable without prudent foresight. It is only a matter of time before a tragic incident like entrapment or cable failure makes headlines, leading to public outrage that these hazards were overlooked for so long. By then it will be too late and lives already lost. A proactive, preventative approach is superior to reactive band aids after avoidable tragedies. The potential costs of inaction are too severe to ignore regulatory reforms any longer.

Most developed nations learned these lessons decades ago after several high-profile elevator accidents spurred safer protocols. While resources and infrastructure are scarcer in a developing country, simple administrative controls need not break the budget. Licensing technicians, publishing codes of practice, and designating an auditing body are low-cost solutions yielding proportionally large protective impacts. Citizens deserve basic safeguards whether riding elevators in New York or Addis Ababa. International best practices need not be reinvented from scratch but adapted to Ethiopia’s means.

If officials truly care about public welfare, transportation safety should be a priority, not an afterthought. The threat elevators currently pose must be addressed through establishment of a regulatory framework and enforcement body without further delay. With investment in preventative maintenance and inspections now, countless injuries and lives could be spared down the line.

Neighboring Kenya proves regulatory oversight has positive effects without undue burden. It is past time for Ethiopia to learn from their example and acknowledge elevator management cannot continue without standards and accountability. Passenger safety must come before bureaucratic inertia and laissez-faire approaches endangering human life. Proper regulation is badly needed and regulators must be held responsible if problems persist without action.

Samson Berhane is an economics graduate with expertise in business and economic reporting and communications. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not represent the opinions of the institutions he is affiliated with nor that of The Reporter.

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