Sean O’Sullivan of the Platform Lift Company discusses why the future of the industry means creating safer platform lift environments in tandem with meeting demand for sustainable, energy efficient products
‘Lift phobia’ used to be about feeling claustrophobic or fearing a lift would break down – now it is about breathing in germs and having to press control buttons which have been touched by other people. As the pandemic has progressed, various specialised lift sanitiser products were launched which potentially worked well for a passenger lift but when it comes to a platform lift, the criteria is slightly different because of its structure.
One of the best solutions we have discovered for an enclosed platform lift is an air purifier, which is designed to work in conjunction with normal cleaning procedures. It circulates the air within an enclosed platform lift through a process of disinfection and purification. The system is activated using biological recognition technology, so the air is purified from the moment a passenger enters the lift until the moment they exit, and it uses a leak-free UV Photo Catalyst, obliterating more than 99 per cent of viruses and bacteria.
Soon we may see other technology available with platform lifts such as voice- controlled lifts and contactless buttons. But in the meantime, other measures which could be put in place include using antimicrobial technology for manufacturing lift buttons, or simply spraying an antimicrobial coating on surfaces.
Supplementing existing cleaning regimes of platform lifts with the introduction of hygiene products like the ones mentioned is undoubtedly beneficial for environments with high footfalls such as hospitals, care homes and schools, especially if more wheelchair lifts need to be introduced because of reconfigured layouts. For instance, architectural barriers such as steps of differing levels could get in the way of introducing accessible one-way systems.
Creating Covid-safe workplaces and public spaces is top of the agenda for our customers, therefore as an industry, we need to have robust solutions in place. The other big requirement is the growing need for not only new energy efficient and sustainable platform lifts, but the ability to refurbish an existing product.
The benefits of refurbishing & upgrading
Upcycling is not just reserved for furniture; it is possible to upgrade an existing platform lift. Giving a platform lift a complete overhaul is not only a sustainable way of prolonging its lifespan but it also improves safety features, boosts energy efficiency and maximises functionality. What’s more, it is a cost-effective way to modernise dated appearances or worn materials and introduce new features such as glazed panels, stylish finishes and enhanced lighting. Another big advantage is that everything, including the pit, can be cleaned down, surfaces can be sprayed with an antimicrobial coating, and an air purifier can be installed.
Vertical platform lifts are incredibly energy efficient compared to passenger lifts, but the running cost of an older platform lift can still be greatly improved by replacing batteries, changing standard lighting for energy efficient LED, and reducing power standby times.
Are platform lifts still on the up?
The demand for vertical platform lifts is still growing because of the many advantages they offer over a passenger lift. They are much cheaper, more energy efficient – it is now possible to have a platform lift with a motor size of 0.55 kW instead of a typical 2.2 kW platform lift – and they are easy to install. Today’s platform lifts are also designed to be compact, for example, there is one currently on the market which is only 1560 mm deep x 1250 mm wide but is still compliant with Part M of the Building Regulations.
There is also a choice of drive systems: hydraulic, chain driven or screw and nut, which all come with their different merits. However, a chain system might be a good choice currently as it requires minimal maintenance and there is no need to lubricate the chain during its lifetime.
Although this year has been challenging, the platform lift industry has proved its ability to move with the times as we can create cleaner and healthier environments for all passengers, promoting safety and minimising risk. At the Platform Lift Company, we can advise on other ways to upgrade disability access provisions within a building and save energy without the costs of replacing your lift. However, when a new platform lift is required, today’s choice of products not only look great, but offer outstanding performance, incorporating the latest technology to keep passengers safe.
Sean O’Sullivan is managing director of the Platform Lift Company