At the core of any multi-story building is a safe, reliable mode of vertical transportation. Most building occupants take elevators—and escalators—for granted, but they are among the most complex mechanical systems in a building.
BD+C asked a pair of technical experts from Moline, Ill.-based elevator and escalator manufacturer and service company KONE  to pinpoint the most important safety and maintenance issues for these systems. Jay Dietz, director of service for the Americas, and John Weber, manager of technical services, offer the following advice:
Monitor machine room temperature. Machine room temperatures that are higher or lower than the specified operating range can negatively impact the performance and life of electronic circuit boards and other electrical equipment. "In the case that there is a fluctuation in temperature, it's important to contact and work with the building HVAC maintenance resource," says Dietz.Ensure proper ventilation. Machines, motors, controls, and other electrical elevator components need proper ventilation to keep temperatures in working range. "Monitoring temperature and air flow is extremely important," says Weber. "If a technician detects changes in either, the facility manager should immediately contact the maintenance team that deals with HVAC issues to determine what the problem might be."Minimize humidity in the machine room. Humidity is a major contributor to elevator or escalator component corrosion that can lead to equipment malfunction. Facility managers should ensure that humidity levels are maintained by carefully monitoring the HVAC systems. It's important that all systems are working properly in order to maintain optimal conditions.Perform regular maintenance checks on sump pumps. Nonfunctioning sump pumps may lead to water accumulation in the elevator pits, which can hinder the service mechanic's ability to properly maintain the elevator unit. "Combining water with electrical equipment in the pit can create a serious hazard to the service mechanics," says Weber. "In order to help ensure the pump is working properly at all times, water sensors can be installed to trigger alarms if water is ever present in the pits."Check the phones. Functioning phones are a safety code and ADA requirement. Every elevator must have a phone or a means of communication in the event an elevator malfunctions while the cab is between floors. Dietz says elevator phones can be unintentionally orphaned when the building's phone system is changed or upgraded. "Elevator phones should be checked any time system changes are made, and periodically thereafter," he says.Specify self-closing and locking machine room doors. Leaving a machine room door unlocked allows for unauthorized personnel to enter the machine room, where heavy rotating equipment and voltages as high as 800 volts are present. This creates a serious potential hazard for personnel who are not familiar with equipment and for passengers riding the elevators. For that reason, code requires that machine rooms be locked.Avoid storing non-elevator-related material in machine rooms. Machine rooms are never to be used for storage of cleaning materials, boxes, brooms, flammable items, and other non—elevator-related items—in fact, anything that could catch fire. "Elevator and escalator equipment is not designed to operate in close proximity to flammable materials and vapors," says Dietz.Install adequate lighting in the machine room and pit. Maintenance mechanics need adequate lighting when working in the machine room, the pit, or any other part of an elevator. Minimum lighting levels are specified by local safety codes. Those lighting levels should be maintained.Maintain steady equipment power supply. Proper and regulated power supply must be maintained to the elevator (and escalator) controls. Power spikes can produce equipment failure and, in the case of elevators, possibly entrap occupants between floors. "While spiking is oftentimes an issue that comes from power companies, connecting and disconnecting large loads from the supply can cause voltage transients," says Weber.Provide safe access routes to equipment spaces. It is required by code to have proper access to and around rotating equipment in order to prevent injury to service personnel while entering and leaving equipment spaces.