single speed elevators

Single Speed Elevators Holding Property Owners at Risk

Monday, September 11, 2017

New directives by the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) are placing greater liability on property owners with legacy elevator technology.

On August 1, 2017, a revised TSSA director’s order went into effect that allows building owners to continue operating single speed elevators – even with their known propensity for not levelling properly with the floor.

“Single speed elevators do not stay flush with the hall sill,” explains Phil Staite, Vice President with Quality Allied Elevators. “Even after an elevator technician has adjusted a single speed elevator, it can go out of adjustment shortly afterward and without warning depending on the load or a change in humidity or temperature.”

At issue is the fact that single speed elevators were designed to be stopped by their brake. The lining for those brakes, however, was originally made with asbestos, which is not available today. Therefore, Staite says, “Brakes today are designed to hold an elevator, not stop an elevator. The only brakes available are less effective at stopping elevators and cause sliding, resulting in the single speed elevator to be out of level.”

single speed elevators

These new TSSA directives replace the non-profit organization’s original orders for owners to upgrade or replace their single speed elevators – many of which are between 40 and 80 years old. Now, owners are being asked to conduct thorough and regular maintenance on their single speed elevator brakes instead. While this may seem less onerous on paper, the reality is that many elevator maintenance companies have ceased to provide services for single speed models. In fact, many have reached out to clients with such elevators to warn them that they are fully liable if and when an injury occurs as a result of them not being level.

This lack of maintenance support leaves property owners with the option of either undergoing expensive replacements or doing nothing and hoping their single speed elevators level out. And the former, says Staite, is really no option at all: “This directors order has put even more risk onto building owners, because there are many who aren’t even aware of the levelling problem. Also, there’s the risk of building owners thinking their elevators are safe and don’t fall under these new orders, so they go about their business not knowing that, in fact, they might be paying a lot of money if something happens.”

The solution? More awareness, for starters. In light of the TSSA’s somewhat ambiguous mandate, it’s essential that property owners know that while it is legal to keep single speed elevators in operation, they are fully liable if the worst happens.

“The best thing owners can do is upgrade their elevators so that they come in flush. If they decide not to do that, though, they should be aware what they’re doing so they aren’t blindly believing they’re not at risk,” notes Staite, adding, “At the end of the day, it’s their building, their elevators, and their decisions – but they need to fully understand the risks.”

Phil Staite is vice president with Quality Allied Elevator (

1 thought on “Single Speed Elevators Holding Property Owners at Risk

  1. In jurisdictions where the equivalent of the TSSA changes to a weak position in the enforcement of safety issues like we have seen in this instance in Ontario, the insurance companies typically step in. The insurance companies take steps with the building owners and sometimes with the elevator contractors to charge extra premiums or dropping coverage altogether for the risker devices like the single speed elevators. We have already heard rumblings within the building insurer’s space that they are formulating a plan to mitigate this risk since TSSA mandated risk mitigation process has now been reversed by the reversing of the safety upgrade order. It would certainly be advisable for building owners with single speed elevators to continue to budget for and upgrade these elevators rather than face the possibility of an 90 day mandatory insurance upgrade.

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