Gov. Cuomo Signs Long Awaited Elevator Safety Act

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed the long awaited Elevator Safety Act, which requires anyone who designs, builds, inspects, maintains and/or repairs elevators to be licensed by the state. The legislation also creates a nine member New York State Elevator Safety & Standards Advisory Board to help establish recommendations for elevator inspections, examinations to satisfy licensing requirements, and enforcement to ensure compliance and promote public safety. The DOB must also start maintaining a list of licensed mechanics, contractors and inspectors. The list will be made available on the agency’s website.

Gov. Cuomo approved the new bill reinforcing elevator safety in the aftermath of a gruesome Manhattan accident that killed a man. However, in a compromise to win Cuomo’s signature, lawmakers agreed to amend the bill and have state government delay implementation of the “Elevator Safety Act” from June until January 2022.

The measure will require the state Labor Department to license mechanics and others who oversee the maintenance of 70,000 elevators in the city buildings and require more extensive education and training, bringing the state in line with standards required in the rest of the U.S.

Under the new law, workers can obtain a license through a few different methods, including taking a written test on national, state, and local codes (with at least four years of experience) or completing a union apprenticeship/other approved training program.

A January 2019 report by The Real Deal showed how elevator-related injuries and fatalities in recent years underscored lapses in the enforcement of city safety standards and a lack of consistency in training of elevator contractors. Between 2010 and 2018, at least 22 people were killed in passenger elevators or shafts in the city, according to the Department of Buildings. Twelve of the fatalities were mechanics.

The law is backed by the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 1, which has long sought licensing rules to toughen elevator safety in New York by setting minimum education and training standards for elevator mechanics.

“After a decade of hard work, New York is finally taking an important first step forward in elevator safety,” said IUEC Local 1 business manager Lenny Legotte..

But Legotte suggested more work needs to be done.

“As we work towards implementation, we remain committed to building on this progress and to one day making New York a national leader in elevator safety,” he said.

Other than New York, 36 states and the District of Columbia require elevator mechanics to be licensed.

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Elevator Safety Act Still A Priority in NY State

Ten percent of the country’s elevators exist in New York State, and of that ten percent, a majority operates in New York City, where many millions of people rely on elevators to get safely to and from work and home. Currently New York State doesn’t require people working on elevators to receive any education, training, or licensing by the state. The Act has been introduced 5 times without any luck but according to state Sen. Diane Savino, the push for elevator safety legislation will still be a legislative priority come January.

Over the last few years, there have been some shocking revelations about the NYC elevator industry. The New York City Comptroller issued an audit finding that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) fails to properly maintain its elevators and escalators, the State University of New York (SUNY) system fails to meet elevator maintenance and safety standards, and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been found to have similar, but more severe elevator safety issues including critical injuries and fatalities of residents and workers.

Just last week three of the NYCHA’s top elevator division managers surrendered to authorities facing dozens of felony counts for lying and committing elevator inspection fraud. According to the DA, the three managers who helped oversee NYCHA’s 3,314 elevators, regularly filed false reports from 2014 – 2018 claiming lifts had been inspected when they weren’t. The trio allegedly continued filing false reports even after an 84-year-old man died in a faulty elevator in the Mill Brook Houses in the Bronx on Christmas Eve in 2015.

State Sen. John Bonacic believes the answer to these extensive and dangerous issues throughout the city and state rests in the hands of the New York State Legislature with the Elevator Safety Act. In 2012, Bonacic introduced a bill that would require anyone involved in the mechanics of elevators – such as designers, construction workers, operators and inspectors – to be licensed by the state labor commissioner. The Elevator Safety Act would mandate licensing and set minimum standards for training.

The bill was approved by the Senate Labor Committee and passed by the Assembly, but failed to advance in the Senate Finance Committee. Bonacic reintroduced the bill four more times, without any luck.

Earlier this year, Bonacic announced his retirement, but according to state Sen. Diane Savino, the push for elevator safety legislation will still be a legislative priority come January. Savino replaced Bonacic as sponsor of the bill when she reintroduced it in March 2017. When Democrats assume control of the Senate next year, the bill might make it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk. Elevator contractors across New York State should be ready should this Act becomes a law.

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