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Not enough licensed mechanics to maintain record number of Toronto elevators

Last Updated Oct 31, 2018 at 6:51 pm EDT

Are we on the verge of an elevator crisis in Ontario? Here’s a startling number: there are 57,900 elevators in Ontario, and only 4,700 licensed mechanics to maintain them.

“There’s no short term solution,” said Rob Isabelle, COO of KJA Consultants, an engineering firm specializing in elevators.

“It takes a long time to get elevators fixed. That’s not gonna go away in the short term.”

Not only are buildings getting older in the city – more high-rise condos are being built every day, sparking a growing fear we may be on the verge of a crisis.

“There’s just a massive building boom which we think is going to slow down at some point but it never seems to, it’s the opposite,” said Isabelle. “The reality, the truth is, I don’t have the labour to do it.”

The problem isn’t so much safety – the number of elevator accidents every year are very low. But convenience and accessibility are major issues.

“I’m not allowed to do stairs, it’ll kill me,” said Ron McFarland, who lives on the fourth floor of his Brampton building. The elevator in his building is his lifeline.

He is dealing with severe heart and mobility issues, and soon, stairs will be the only option to get out of his apartment. The elevator will be shut down for up to six weeks for maintenance.

“I just cannot stay in here for over two months – there’s no way, it’ll kill me,” said McFarland.

These types of elevator issues have become one of the most common problems for tenants in the city. They often break down, get stuck, or are shut off for weeks at a time for maintenance.

“Most of the high rise towers in and around the Toronto area were built in the 1940s, 50s, 60s so you’re seeing major issues come up,” said Geordie Dent, Federation of Metro Tenants Association. “In almost all of the reports that people do around: what are the major issues around repairs in high rise buildings, elevators are always number one.”

The latest elevator study from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority found in 2016, contractors responded to nearly 10,000 entrapments in Ontario – the equivalent of 26 a day.

It also found that 80 per cent of residential buildings have only one or two elevators creating accessibility concerns if even one is out of service.

In the meantime, McFarland waits.

“I don’t know what to do. That’s a major problem I have, and I can’t handle the stress.”