New study suggests over half of Czech lifts unsafe

A new survey makes alarming reading for the millions of people in this country who ride in elevators every day. Figures compiled by the Union of Lift Producers suggest that more than half of all elevators in the Czech Republic are unsafe. Problems range from missing safety doors to braking systems containing asbestos.

Most of us use them every day and rarely stop to think about their safety. They’re still one of the safest forms of transport of course: the Union of Lift Producers estimates that since 1993, only around 20 people have died in accidents involving the 85,000 or so passenger lifts in service in the Czech Republic. But many more have been seriously injured in old and poorly-maintained elevators, mostly installed in pre-fabricated high-rise apartment blocks built during the communist era. Jan Dvořák is the Union’s director general.

“The number one problem is the lack of cage doors. This was actually required by a Czech law that dates back to 1929. In the 1960s, however, the law was changed and the cage doors were removed to save money, and in many cases they’re still missing today. This is the cause of the majority of fatalities, because if someone tries to carry something heavy like a wardrobe or a bike and it jams against the wall, well, that can have irreversible consequences for the person inside.”

But the new law only applied to elevators installed from that day on, not to the thousands already in use. Jan Dvořák says there is no law saying landlords must conform to strict safety norms when installing an elevator; they’re simply responsible if something goes wrong. So what does he advise people to do?

“What can you do? Well, the only thing you can do is inform the person who owns the building that the lift is evidently unsafe. You have to be careful that you don’t get thrown out of the flat as a result though. Because there’s a huge difference between the Czech Republic and western Europe when it comes to the whole issue of landlord-tenant relations and attitudes towards things like elevator safety.”

So there is it – if you think your lift is unsafe, talk to your landlord. And if he’s no help, well, it might be time to look for somewhere else to live.