Below are several of the most common questions we are asked regarding lift installation and safety.

Click on the tab to the right of a question to reveal the answer.

  • Do I need planning permission or a building warrant?


    Planning permission is only required if there is a change in the use of the building. If in doubt, contact your local planning authority.

    A Building Warrant is required when the installation of the lift affects the structure or the fire integrity of a building. If a new lift is to replace an existing one, a building warrant is not normally required. If in doubt, contact your local Building Control Department.

  • What types of lifts are available?


    There are a wide range of traction and hydraulic drive types available. These can be purchased as goods, passenger and service lifts (dumb waiters).

    Lifts are often custom built to suit individual site requirements. Scenic lifts and wall climbers are basically a shaftless or glazed shaft version of conventional Traction or Hydraulic lifts. The drive system can be configured to the particular needs of the building to give the most practical layout possible.

  • Traction or Hydraulic?



    Traction drive is the conventional lift set-up where ropes are anchored to the lift car and counterweight.


    - Suitable for long travel lifts
    - Wide range of speed control from single speed, two speed and variable stepless speed control
    - (VVVF) Variable Voltage Variable Frequency
    - Higher speeds available for long travel lifts
    - Machine room can be above, below or beside lift shaft
    - Low to medium start-up current in both directions of travel


    - Higher installation cost than hydraulic lifts
    - Accurate levelling only really possible on VVVF types
    - Must have load-bearing capability above lift car
    - More complicated to hand wind
    - Apart from M.R.L (Motor Room Less) layouts, these generally require larger motor/control room


    A Hydraulic system is one in which the lift is driven directly or indirectly by a hydraulic ram. Note: hydraulic systems may also use suspension ropes.


    - Speed control, inexpensive for accurate floor levelling
    - Motor room can be sited remotely form the lift shaft
    - All loading taken to ground level - no load-bearing element required*
    - Virtually silent in down direction
    - Easy to raise and lower in emergency
    - Uses high power drain only in up direction

    * Other than lifting a beam for maintenance purposes


    - Only suitable for short travel (up to 24 Metres)
    - Homes to lowest floor after standby period
    - Speed range limited to about 1 M/s
    - Heat exchanger required for speeds over 0.6 M/s
    - Danger of oil spillage in rare circumstances

  • How much does a lift cost?


    The price of a lift depends greatly on required speed, load capacity, drive type, length of travel, number of floors, shaft design and number of entrances. The level of finish of the lift car and any required options can all affect the final price.

    As a ballpark guide however, a hydraulic drive, two stop, 8 person lift, travelling at 0.6M/s with "same side" entrances and having a basic level of finish installed in a load bearing shaft would, currently July 2012, be around £22,000 + VAT.

    A six stop lift of the same specification would be around £30,000 + VAT.

  • How long does it take to install a lift?


    This depends on site conditions and the type of lift required, but a rule of thumb is one week plus one week per floor.

  • What are the legal responsibilities for owning or running a lift?


    The law places certain duties on persons who provide or make available lifts for use at work and in public places. There are duties on those in control of certain premises (generally offices, shops and factories) where lifts are installed.

    This is to maintain the integrity of the lifts and to make sure that a competent person periodically and thoroughly maintains them. This premises-specific legislation is being replaced by law applying at all places where people are at work. These standards apply to all those concerned with the safe operation of lifts.

    This legislation is:

    - Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)
    - Management of Health and Safety at work regulations 1992 (MHSWR)
    - Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (WPR)
    - Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)
    - Lifting operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations1998 (LOLER)
    - Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

    There may also be local regulations which apply under certain circumstances.

  • What are the maintenance requirements?


    Maintenance requirements depend on the design and type of lift and the amount of use the lift will receive. For infrequently used lifts we recommend that the minimum is four service visits per year. Other frequencies are bi-monthly and monthly for busier or critical lift installations. See our Service Comparison Sheet for further information.

    In addition to routine maintenance, It is a requirement of the H.S.W. Act that all lifts are "Inspected" at least once every six months by a competent person and an appropriate report issue in the form of a thorough examination known as LOLER, - Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.

    Other inspections may be called for as a result of this. For further information read:

    Thorough Examination and Testing of Lifts - simple guidance for lift owners.

    Also see Simple Guide to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

  • What standards should I look for?



    The lift regulations 1997. Issued by Health and Safety Executive.

    These relate to ISO requirements and in particular regulations for the installation of "Model Lifts" or "Type Tested Lifts" and alteration to standard designs.

    Model or Type tested lifts are built to a standard design which is pre tested and certified as an acceptable design by the authorising body. No modification or significant variance form the engineered design is permissible.

    Where a lift has to be custom made or significant alteration is made to a Type tested or Model Lift, the involvement of a Notified Body is required. Notified bodies play a key roll regardless of whether the lift company is ISO9000 accredited.

    For further information contact your Health and Safety Executive: Info Hotline Tel: 08701 5445500

    The Lift an Escalator Industry Association (LEIA) have published a guide to help improve safety for all those who use and work on lifts.

    For this and other information they can be contacted at:

    33-34 Devonshire Street
    W1N 1RF

    Tel: 0171 953 3013
    Fax: 0171 935 3321

  • How safe are lifts?


    It is a well documented fact that lifts are the safest form of passenger transport - bar none.

    Statistically, travelling in a lift is safer than sitting in your bath! It is an astonishing fact that lifts travel greater distances each day than any other form of transport.

    In North America alone, there is an average of 3.5 million journeys per day made in passenger lifts. The figures worldwide are unknown but It does not bear thinking about. The fatalities however are recorded and world-wide this averages at just 27 people per year with 22 of them being employees in the lift industry. The remaining 5 were found to be actively abusing the lifts. Statistics from program “Trapped in an Elevator”.

  • What size do I need?



    This is measured in 'persons' and load capacity, with an average person taken to be 75 - 78Kg.

    For example, a lift with a load capacity of either 600Kg or 630Kg would be rated as an 8-person lift

    The floor area is also limited to 0.252 Metres per person to avoid overloading the lift car, but typical BS recommended car sizes for 13 person lift cars are around 0.182 Metres per person.

  • What about speed?


    The speed of the lift is dependent on several factors, the main ones being:

    - The total travel of the lift
    - Individual floor-to-floor heights
    - The nature of the building and other related aspects

    The lift could be serving a nursing home or an office building.

    It would be no use having a super fast lift just to travel a few floors, which are close together as the lift would spend most of its journey time accelerating and decelerating with little of its journey time actually in highest speed.

  • What space do I need for a lift shaft?


    The shaft size limits the maximum size the lift car can be.

    There are BS recommended sizes for a set size of lift car, but often lift designers can adapt installations by a small margin to suit local site conditions.

    It is however imperative, that the stated lift shaft sizes are the minimum plumb and square dimensions throughout the total length of the lift shaft. Deviations from this will, at best, prevent installation of the lift without major alterations to the lift design or, at worst prevent installation of the ordered lift.

  • What about the lift pit?


    The lift pit must still be square and true for it full depth.

    The depth of the lift pit is associated with the lifts speed, design and layout.

    Typically this is not permitted to be less than 1200mm. This may require to be increased depending on the speed of the lift.

    Some low speed, specialist lifts designed only for Disabled Access can have a extremely shallow pit typically 50mm, or even no pit at all if a ramp can be fitted on the landing.

  • What space do I need at the top?


    This size is taken from the top floor finished floor level on the landing to the lowest clear point inside the lift shaft and is known as the “headroom” This must not be less than 3200mm but some designs of lifts such as MRL (Motor Room Less) layouts require 1600mm or more.

  • Where can the motor or pump room be sited?


    The most typical option for this for a traction drive is directly above the lift. Hydraulic lifts are more typically located at the lowest floor adjacent to the lift shaft.

    There are a wide variety of possibilities for locating this control room, the most flexible being on hydraulic lifts. There is also available a range of motor-room-less lifts which incorporate the driving and control gear within the lift shaft.

    This usually requires a larger lift shaft and/or an integrated control cupboard forming part of the lift shaft at one floor.

  • The space I have does not match recommended sizes - can I install?


    There are BS recommended sizes for a set size and shapes of lift car and lift shafts, but often lift designers can adapt installations by a small margin to suit local site conditions.

  • What electrical power supply do I need?


    Most lifts require a three phase and neutral power supply. However, there are small lifts available which can run from a conventional mains supply.

  • What control options are available?


    From the customers point of view, this is often not considered until the lift company points it out. Basic options are:


    One "call" button per landing call station.

    This is the most basic form of control. It works on a "first come first served" principal. The lift does not "remember" calls and simply responds to the next button pressed whenever it has finished its previous journey. There is however a timer incorporated to give preferential response to car calls for the first few seconds after the lift stops.



    A Down Collective system has one "Down" button per landing call station. In this system, the control system "remembers" which calls are registered and sequentially responds.

    A Down Collective System would ignore all landing calls until the lift has reached the topmost call and then sequentially answer all calls on the way down. It would answer all car calls in either direction sequentially. The benefit of this can be seen in a lift installed in private apartments where there is limited inter floor traffic.

    Most persons here require transport to the lobby floor. Persons calling the lift to their landing will not be collected (unless there is a car call at their floor) until the lift has gone to its topmost floor. This system is fitted with a single "call" button on each landing.

    The one disadvantage of this system is that persons wishing to travel to an upper floor may have to travel in the lift while the lift responds to the lowest floor call before they are carried to their chosen upper floor.


    An Up Collective system has one "up" call per landing call station and is simply the reverse of the above.


    This has Two buttons per landing call station except for lowest and highest floors.The highest floor only has a "down" call button and the lowest floor only has an "up" button.

    Fully Collective Systems are designed for buildings where inter floor traffic in both directions is required. There is two call buttons on each intermediate landing and one call button at the terminal floors. This system allows passengers on the landing to register which direction they intend to travel. The lift will then pick them up when passing that floor in the chosen direction.

    One disadvantage is that most persons tend to press both up and down buttons simultaneously and cause the lift to stop at that landing when passing by in both up and down directions - much to the confusion of the passenger now on the lift after they just left that floor to travel in the wrong direction. Fully Collective systems are therefore normally coupled with direction arrows which indicate the direction the lift will next travel.

    All of these control systems can be customised to suit individual building requirements.

  • What can the lift shaft be made of?


    Lifts require sound, load-bearing walls to attach various components such as guide rails and doorframes.

    Where this is impractical or undesirable, the lift can be designed with an integral tower structure and the shaft finally enclosed with a non load-bearing material which provides security and fire resistance to the local authority requirements. This is typically one hour.

    Lift shafts and landing doors must have at least one hours fire resistance. Three hour rated lift doors are available for particular requirements. There is no current fire standard for lift cars as they are contained within a fire resistant shaft.

  • What type of doors are available?


    Doors can be fully automatic, semi-automatic or manual. This depends on the nature of the building and available lift shaft space.

    For example, a larger lift car may be possible with certain door layouts where there are shaft size limitations.

  • What accessories are available for a lift?


    A wide variety of call stations and indicators are available to enhance or blend with any building.

    These can be illuminated from behind or be multi segment or dot matrix LED, depending on the sophistication of the message required.

    Liquid crystal displays (LCD) which can be designed to the customers requirements and include time of day, temperature, names of floors (e.g. "Reception", "Restaurant" etc.) and a variety of graphical items are becoming more popular in upmarket establishments.

  • What kind of finishes are available for a lift?


    A typical budget lift would include primed finished doors and architraves for painting by the customer, rubber or lino flooring and a basic choice of colours in laminate or skin-plate finishes. The car lighting would be a simple low voltage or fluorescent lighting unit. This would be trimmed with aluminium or stainless steel and perhaps be fitted with a mirror and handrail.

    The interiors of lift cars have come a long way from the standard wood or laminate finishes.

    A wide variety of materials including glass and coloured stainless steel are available for deluxe versions of the above forming part of a manufacturers standard range. In addition to this, custom finishes can be designed to match any taste or theme.

    Landing doors and architraves entrances can be finished in coloured or even engraved stainless steel and surrounded in the lobby with marble or timber.

  • Can I get jammed in the doors?


    The lift driven doors (the car doors) have a pressure-sensitive facility that makes the doors retract if they strike an object.

    The force of the door operator is designed to be limited so that the door will stall in any event before causing serious damage. In addition to this, there are a variety of entrance protection systems ranging from single beam "magic eyes" to full entrance area protection scanning devices.

  • Can the doors open if the lift is at another floor?


    All lifts have an electromechanical device fitted to every landing door which prevents the lift from moving away if the door is not locked and also prevents the doors from opening when the lift is not at that floor.

  • Can the lift fall?



    Elisha Otis is often credited with having invented the lift. This is really not the case as the early Egyptians and other nations used lifts. Elisha Otis invented the lift safety gear, effectively making lifts safe for public use.

    In its most basic form, the lift safety gear consists of case-hardened steel jaws which are designed to bite into the guide rails should the lift ropes fail or the lift exceed a pre determined speed in the downward direction. These are operated by a fly-rope which links the safety gear jaws to the lift counterweight over a pulley or speed governor at the top of the lift shaft.

    In the unlikely event of the suspension ropes failing, the weight of the lift car rapidly transfers to the previously unloaded fly-rope. The fly-ropes only job is to rotate the safety gear jaws about 3mm.

    The safety gear jaws are concentric in shape so that the first bite into the lift guide rails further causes them to rotate and bite further. The fly-rope has by this time done its job in starting of the rotation of the safety gear jaws.

    The jaws can only be released by upward movement of the lift car.

    A safety gear may also be fitted to the counterweight when there is accessible space below the lift shaft (e.g. an underground line).

    Hydraulic lifts, which also have suspension ropes, basically follow the same method. However an additional valve "rupture valve" is fitted at the cylinder hose join. Should a major oil leak occur in the supply system. This closes off and prevents oil loss from the cylinder and supports the lift car.

  • What are the buffers for?


    These are designed to prevent the lift car from excessive shock in the event of a high speed over run.

  • What should I do if I get trapped in a lift?


    In the unlikely event of becoming trapped in a lift, the safest place for you is inside the lift car. Generally, persons usually only become injured while trying to force the doors or otherwise trying to escape from the lift. Lift doors are locked when the lift is away from the landing to protect persons on that landing and can only be unlocked by a special key.

    Sound the alarm and use the telephone system if this is fitted. Make as much noise as you like until you are heard. Once you know that someone has responded to you, just relax. There is more than enough air and the lift car will also have ventilators. These may be concealed within the lighting or roof area.

    Follow any instructions given to you by the responsible person who may be unlocking the doors or winding the lift.


    Follow these simple instructions and you will be freed from the lift in the safest manner.

  • What is the roof trapdoor for?


    The trapdoor on the roof of some older lifts is purely for maintenance purposes and is locked from the outside. They are not permitted on new lifts.

    It is a Hollywood dramatisation when the roof trapdoor is shown as an escape hatch as this would only allow persons to enter an unsafe area by taking them inside the workings of a faulty machine which may restart at any moment.

  • Why must I not use a lift if there is a fire?



    Travelling in a lift during a building fire can be hazardous if the fire service need to turn off the main building electrical supply or the fire damages any of the lift electrics.

    The biggest danger is smoke, which can rapidly travel up a lift shaft, which can be compared to a chimney. Nowadays, lift shafts are fitted with smoke vents to help take away smoke which finds its way into the lift shaft.

    Some lifts are designated as “Fire Evacuation Lifts” This will be obvious from signage around the building. These are designed to be used for evacuation but will be under the control of the Fire Service when they arrive.

    There are also lifts with the designation “Fire Fighting lifts” these must not be used for evacuation and this control is only for use of the fire services.

    Lift landing doors and lift shafts are designed to have at least one hours fire protection.

    There are however, some lifts which are designated as fire fighting lifts. These will be clearly marked as such and have extra fire protection and include specifically designed smoke and fire protected waiting areas on each landing.