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Assessing the risks of home elevators


January 13, 2022   by Chris Morrison, Morrison Risk and Claims Services


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The Canadian Elevator Contractors Association (CECA) recently surveyed the industry and found more than 900 private-residence elevators are installed annually in Ontario. CECA estimates over 2,000 residential elevators are installed annually across Canada.

For homeowners, having an elevator can increase accessibility and even a home’s selling price. But what are the risks?

Unlike the commercial elevator industry, which has regulatory oversight and powers to adopt and enforce codes and standards (such as the ASME A17.1 / CSA B44 Safety Code for Elevators), Canada’s private-residence market is largely unregulated.

Canadian insurers who are unaware of the lack of regulation may also not be verifying if a home elevator complies with any applicable code or standard. Others may not even think to ask if the home has an elevator. And a YouTube search of “homemade elevators” will have any risk and liability expert losing sleep.

In 2016, CECA formed a Private Residence Division (PRD) to come up with solutions to the safety concerns that stem from private home elevator installations.


One result was the creation of a self-regulated standard for private-residence elevators that sets out requirements for the installation and service of private-residence elevators across Canada. The standard provides minimum criteria for contractor installation requirements, inspection, training, certification requirements; and establishes homeowner training.

The PRD developed a website for contractors to register, apply for installation permits, submit site-specific manufacturers drawings and to submit final inspection documents that compel an installer to verify the installation meets the applicable code. The site also includes a homeowner elevator safety course focused on operation practices.

The CECA standard is written in a way that makes it applicable to any residential elevator in Canada. And it can apply to existing elevating devices, not just newly installed units. It’s our view that contractors installing home elevators who want to reduce their exposure should immediately adopt the CECA standard.

If the standard is not followed, a court could find that the voluntary code constitutes an industry standard and make adverse findings against a noncompliant contractor. Further, a contractor who can establish it followed the CECA standard will be able to use the fact that it complied with the standard as a defence.

Insurers, contractors and homeowners that don’t follow the standard could have difficulties proving they met a reasonable standard of care if the standard is applied by a court of competent jurisdiction.

It is recommended that all insurers verify that a private-residence elevator has a Unit ID number issued by CECA. That ID number means the contractor who installed and inspected the device after installation is documenting adherence to the CECA standard, which a court is likely to consider the industry standard.

Any future renewals should also verify proper operation, repair, maintenance and testing of these devices has taken place according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 

Chris Morrison is a licenced insurance adjuster for Morrison Risk and Claims Services specializing in elevator liability and property damage claims in Ontario and is a licenced elevating device mechanic and holder of the QEI elevator designation from the North American Elevator Safety Authority. This article is adapted from one that appeared in the December-January issue of Canadian Underwriter.

 

Feature image by iStock.com/sihuo0860371


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