Does our lifts need an emergency telephone?

None of the lifts in our block have an emergency telephone.  Obviously all new lifts are required to have that but is it a legal requirement to install phones to these lifts? The lift company who maintain them are saying it should be done.

Matt Lewis of ILS Lift Group replies

“The short answer is no it isn’t a legal requirement but as with so many areas of legislation there is a grey area and it is not cut and dried when it comes to potential legal liability. I will try and explain as best as possible. All new lifts installed after 1997 are legally required to comply with the European Lift Directive including the provision of a lift communication system. As these lifts were originally installed in the 1960s they do not fall into this category. For existing lifts the European Standard EN81-80 was introduced in 2003 and covered a 74- point list of recommendations for making older lifts safer. This includes the provision of a lift communication system where reasonably practical (which in most cases it is). This is where it gets more complicated. EN81-80 is not itself a legal statute, only a recommended standard. However where the lift is installed in work premises it then comes under The Health and Safety at Work Act and a piece of legislation called LOLER (The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) comes into effect. However, with private residential premises the lift is not deemed to be work equipment and therefore does not fall under the HASAW or LOLER. If the leaseholders/freeholders are collectively liable for the lift but agree not to have a phone then this is theoretically ok. Nevertheless, there may remain a liability to members of the public (or contractors) who use the lift (unless perhaps a disclaimer is clearly posted). If for example someone was travelling in the lift and it broke down and they suffered a panic attack or maybe worse because they had no means of making an emergency call to the lift company or fire brigade, then theoretically they might sue the leaseholders/freeholders for failing to take adequate steps to protect them in that scenario. We do not know of a case where that has been put to the test but it is a possibility and public liability insurance may not cover it. It may not be sufficient defence to say that the lift user is expected to use their own mobile phone (as there may not be a signal) or the lift alarm button which may be inaudible to other occupants of the building.