Technical safety: Every eighth lift installation has significant defects

Around 2500 lifts had to be shut down in Germany in 2020 due to dangerous defects. This is one of the findings of the recently published Industrial Plant Safety Report 2021. Digitalisation and the energy transition also require a safety update for industrial plants.

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Berlin, 21 December 2021 - During the legally required safety inspections of lift systems in buildings, around 4,500 lifts were found to have "dangerous defects". This corresponds to 0.7 percent of the approximately 637,000 systems inspected in 2020. Around 2,500 of these systems (0.4 percent) could not be repaired immediately and had to be temporarily shut down in order to no longer endanger the users of the lifts. These are the findings of the "Facility Safety Report 2021". "For the safety of the population, it is crucial that corroded suspension cables, damaged control systems or defective emergency call systems in lifts are repaired or replaced," said Dr Joachim Bühler, Managing Director of the TÜV Association, at the presentation of the system safety report. In a further 75,000 lifts, the experts found "safety-relevant defects" that did not lead to immediate shutdown (11.8 percent). 43.5 percent of the lifts had "minor defects" and 44 percent were free of defects. The results of the legally prescribed inspections of all inspection bodies approved in Germany (ZÜS) are included in the Plant Safety Report. In addition to lifts, the installations requiring inspection include pressure vessel installations such as gas storage tanks and steam boilers as well as certain installations in areas at risk of fire and explosion (Ex installations), including petrol stations and airfield refuelling facilities.

From the TÜV Association's point of view, the statistics show how important the regular and independent safety inspections are. A milestone for technical safety was the legal reorganisation of safety inspections in July 2021. More clarity was created for employers, operators and inspection organisations with an independent "Act on Installations Requiring Inspection". In future, uniform nationwide requirements for the "approved inspection bodies" will replace the different specifications from 16 federal states. The next step is to issue the necessary ordinances to put the law into practice. "We very much welcome this legal reorganisation," Bühler emphasised. "Now it needs an update with regard to digitalisation and the new technologies for the energy transition."

Above all, digital security must be consistently considered in plant security, he said. "The devastating cyber attacks of recent times have revealed major security gaps," says Bühler. Due to the increasing networking in the Internet of Things, almost every technical system is now potentially affected. Criminal hackers use the digital controls as a gateway to penetrate safety-critical areas and cause enormous damage. Bühler: "This ranges from industrial espionage to the compromising of industrial plants or critical infrastructures, such as hospitals or power plants." Added to this are the demands of environmental and climate protection. "The energy transition urgently needs a security update," said Bühler. That includes conventional plants. For example, new technologies around wind power, hydrogen, electromobility and biogas pose new risks in terms of fire and explosion protection.

The explosion-hazardous facility that German citizens come into contact with most often is the petrol station. The requirements for safety and environmental protection are high, which is why they have to be inspected regularly. However, the inspectors find only about half (45.8 percent) of all petrol stations in perfect condition. 20.6 percent even have "significant deficiencies" and 0.1 percent have "dangerous deficiencies" that must be eliminated for safe operation. "Especially in the case of petrol stations, which are visited by millions of people every day, it is evident that regular inspections are necessary for a high level of safety," said Bühler. This also applies to explosion hazards that can occur in the industrial sector. As many as 24.7 per cent of the tested gas filling systems had significant or even dangerous defects in 2020.

The system of independent technical monitoring also shows its effect in the case of pressure systems, which are indispensable in the generation of energy and process heat, especially in industrial companies. In the periodic inspections of pressure vessels and steam boilers, the rate of defect-free installations is consistently around 80 per cent - the proportion of significant defects even less than five per cent. "It is crucial that safety risks, for example due to fine cracks, are detected at an early stage and thus dangerous developments are prevented from the outset," explains Bühler. "However, printing plants are also increasingly being supplemented with digital components and networked in the global industrial Internet of Things, which leads to new risks." 

The complete defect statistics are available free of charge in the Plant Safety Report 2021 here (only in German):

The Plant Safety Report 2020 is published in the TÜV Association's magazine "Technical Inspection". The following Approved Inspection Bodies (ZÜS) were involved: DEKRA Automobil GmbH, DEKRA EXAM GmbH, GTÜ Anlagensicherheit GmbH, Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance GmbH, SGS-TÜV GmbH, TÜV Austria Service GmbH, TÜV NORD Systems GmbH & Co. KG, TÜV Rheinland Industrie Service GmbH, TÜV SÜD Chemie Service GmbH, TÜV SÜD Industrie Service GmbH, TÜV Technische Überwachung Hessen GmbH and TÜV Thüringen e. V.