2000 NYC Elevators Tagged After Inspection

More than 400,000 elevator inspections conducted between 2017 and 2019 shows 2,127 instances where elevators were given “satisfactory” or “no violation” ratings by private inspectors — only to attract violations issued by the NYC Department of Buildings in the next 90 days. We know elevator contractors are working hard to keep the elevators in New York City safe, so why is this happening?

Every passenger elevator in New York City undergoes a pair of annual inspections but in thousands of cases, elevators are passing those inspections only to be tagged with city-issued violations in the days and months immediately thereafter. This raises the question, is there something wrong with the system?

TRAGIC ACCIDENTS

Of the 35 million elevator trips that New Yorkers take everyday, most don’t go wrong. But when they do, it can be horrifying. Samuel Waisbren, a 30-year-old resident at the Manhattan Promenade , was crushed to death when the elevator he was exiting malfunctioned. He was crushed against the lift shaft between the lobby and the basement floors and was pronounced dead at the scene. The deadly accident unfolded just three weeks after the elevator passed an inspection conducted by a company called LCD Elevator. The scheduled test conducted by elevator technicians involved an “exhaustive review of all the elevator’s safety systems, including the brakes,” according to the city’s Department of Buildings. The inspectors found no violations or deficiencies and approved the elevator for service.

Another incident that occurred in 2015 was equally as horrifying. Eran Modan was stepping into an elevator when the brake gave way, causing the elevator to fall with the doors still open.  In a panic, he turned to jump back up to the quickly disappearing lobby floor, but the car continued its descent and its ceiling landed on him, crushing his head and torso. Residents of the luxury rental building had been wary of the elevator and its unexpected jerks. Despite complaints filed with the city’s Department of Buildings in 2012, the agency’s experts found nothing wrong in follow-up inspections of the unit. P&W Elevators, the company that did maintenance on the lift regularly and conducted annual safety tests, flagged no issues with the agency. Six months after Modan died, an investigator found that the elevator’s brake wasn’t functioning properly.  

A SNAPSHOT IN TIME

Some say it’s unfair to hold an inspector accountable for predicting all the problems an elevator might experience in the months after an annual inspection. The idea of an inspection that’s a snapshot in time and that tells you what the condition was on that particular day. Timothy Hogan, the Department of Buildings Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement, said the city’s elevator safety record is “fantastic.” Hogan says, “We have 70,000 plus elevators in this city. They do over a billion trips a year and in the last 3 years we’ve had one fatality, an unfortunate incident. But if you look at the overall number incidents and accidents that we have with our elevators, it’s probably the safest mode of transportation that you have anywhere.”

How can inspectors and elevator contractors make sure these incidents don’t keep happen? It’s hard to find a solution to a problem with an unidentified cause. At this point, we will have to wait for future developments in the elevator world to ensure the safety of all elevator mechanics and passengers going forward.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the elevator world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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Are Elevator Regulations Failing Us?

elevator regulations

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 30 people die and 17,000 are seriously hurt in incidents on elevators and escalators each year. Most recently, issues in Washington, Texas and North Carolina are calling into question methods that are used to regulate the industry and keep riders safe.

Washington

Although Washington state law requires every elevator and escalator in the state to be inspected annually, more than half of the states’ 18,000 conveyances were not inspected in 2018. What’s worse, thousands of conveyances had not been inspected for two or three years, and investigators found three that had not been inspected in more than 10 years. The backlog has been blamed on a building boom generating more elevators and escalators in need of annual inspections. The state has also had a hard time keeping its inspectors from taking better-paying jobs with construction firms.

Next year’s audit may show an improvement now that additional funding allows the state to pay its inspectors higher salaries, and legislators approved more money to hire conveyance inspections. Technology is also allowing inspectors to spend more time in the field, rather than back at the office filling out paperwork.

North Carolina

The situation in North Carolina is a similar one. CBS 17 found that thousands of elevators are overdue for those inspections. This is shocking given that the North Carolina Department of Labor has full-time employees who have the responsibility of inspecting the 27,000 elevators and escalators across the state once per year. While the department does aim to meet that goal every year, a recent analysis of the inspection data for those devices found that’s not happening. As of late September, about 14 percent of elevators were overdue for inspection.

The biggest problem the North Carolina Department of Labor has is recruiting and hiring qualified elevator inspectors. To become an inspector, you need five years’ experience in the trade and become certified if not already. An added problem is that the private sector typically pays better. Starting pay for inspectors is $53,083.

Elevator owners are required to have contracts to maintain them, and the state will respond if you call about an issue. But the inspectors are supposed to serve as the extra set of eyes to ensure safety for the public. The department is aiming to get better at recruiting and retaining employees and has hired six new inspectors this year to meet this goal.

Texas

The story is similar in Texas, where a nurse was nearly crushed to death in an elevator at a Fort Worth hospital. State investigators blamed the incident on worn-out brakes caused by lack of maintenance. Since 2004, nearly half of all elevator accidents in Texas happened in Dallas and Fort Worth. About one-third of those occurred at hospitals, which typically have elevators running day and night, particularly in urban areas.

A WFAA investigation found significant problems in the state’s program to ensure the safety of Texas’ 40,000 passenger elevators — including missed inspections, neglected elevators, shoddy record-keeping and failing oversight. A major problem is that the state has no inspectors on its payroll. Although the state does have a chief inspector and a deputy based in Austin, neither actually completes inspections. So who does? Texas issues licenses to approximately 150 independent contractors to inspect elevators across the state. Some have more training than others and are of varying quality and experience. But what is the minimum required training to become an elevator inspector in Texas? A $50 state fee and a three-day class, records show. Needless to say, this is not enough training, when issues with an elevator can quickly become life or death situations.

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation enforces the annual inspection requirement. But analysis of the state’s own data shows 5,617 — or 14% — of all elevators are overdue for their annual inspection – some by years. There are a lot of building owners out there who are either unaware that they need to have their elevators inspected or that don’t care. WFAA also found numerous errors in the state’s elevator database, which is littered with elevators that no longer exist, as well as some inspectors faking inspections.

Conclusion

Lack of trained inspectors, insufficient funding, major inspection backlogs, and incorrect databases seem to be common themes amongst the three states- and likely in many others as well. Increased government funding, adequate training programs, increased inspector accountability, and better inspector vetting processes must all be put in place in order to see drastic improvements in elevator safety across the country.


FIELDBOSS
 stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the elevator world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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Elevator-Related Fatalities in Construction Industry On the Rise

According to a new report from the Center for Construction Research and Training, elevator-related fatalities in the construction industry are on the rise. A total of 145 construction workers were killed in elevator-related incidents from 2011 through 2016 – more than twice the combined total for all other industries.

Here are some stats from the report:

  • The construction industry experiences more elevator-related fatal and nonfatal injuries than any other major industry sector. From 2011 to 2016, elevator-related incidents caused 145 deaths and 2,410 severe injuries among construction workers.
  • Although nonfatal injuries involving elevators declined over time, both the number and rate of such fatal injuries increased in recent years.
  • More than one-third of elevator-related fatalities occurred while the victim was performing assembling or dismantling tasks, and the majority of elevator-related fatalities in construction were due to falls to a lower level.
  • Elevator installers and repairers had the highest risk of fatal injuries among all construction occupations.
  • Younger construction workers had a higher risk of both fatal and nonfatal injuries involving elevators than their older counterparts.
  • While Hispanic workers had a higher risk of elevator-related fatal injuries, they were less likely to experience nonfatal injuries related to elevators.
  • About 25,000 people in the general public were treated at hospitals due to elevator- or escalator-related injuries in 2017, and the number jumped by 30% in the last decade.

To ensure the safe operation of elevators and the protection of employees, OSHA requires employers to assure that employees who install and maintain elevators are adequately trained and knowledgeable about proper installation, wiring, and maintenance procedures. Organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) have set standards for the construction and maintenance of elevators and escalators and their safe operation. In addition, NIOSH FACE reports have provided specific recommendations on how to prevent elevator-related injuries based on case evaluations.

As an elevator service contractor, you should ask yourself, does your elevator software help prevent accidents? Many of the elevator- and escalator-related deaths and injuries could have been prevented if adequate protection and safe work practices and procedures had been in place. Software like FIELDBOSS Elevator Contractor Management can help prevent accidents from happening. FIELDBOSS provides automatic alerts to notify you of your maintenance jobs, detailed checklists with tasks, all the historical data of previous work done and parts used, lists of all code required tests, and so much more. Our elevator service software puts critical information in the hands of field workers, improves office to field technician communication, as well as technician to technician communication, streamlines processes and boosts productivity. By staying connected, making regular service calls and being up to date on equipment, FIELDBOSS can help you prevent accidents before they happen.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the elevator world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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Ontario Delays Release of Elevator Safety Report

The Ontario government is delaying the release of the elevator safety report commissioned by the TSSA last spring to review the issue of elevator safety and reliability. The report was delivered in November and is being delayed while the Ontario government prepares a response.

According to Barbara Hanson, Ministry of Government Consumer Services, the Ontario government is “currently reviewing the report and considering next steps to improve elevator availability in Ontario. We look forward to making the report publicly available in the coming weeks, along with an action plan to address its recommendations.”

It all began last April  when Ontario Liberal MPP Han Dong proposed the Reliable Elevators Act. As a result, the government ordered the Technical Standards and Safety Authority to commission a study amid concern about growing issues with out-of-service elevators.

In response, the TSSA contracted with Deloitte to do the study and gave them an October deadline.  Just as the elevator safety report was being finalized, the elevator industry released their own report entitled Reliable Elevators – How Ontario Can Become a National Leader for Transportation Systems in Buildings. Their report  included a suite of recommendations to increase reliability and availability, without compromising safety to mechanics and the public. Deloitte went back and revised the report to reflect those concerns and the TSSA had a final version ready in early November. At the time, it said it was awaiting government permission to release it publicly.

“We have asked the TSSA to translate the report into French and convert it to an accessible format before making it public,” Hanson said in early December.

Recently, however, the TSSA confirmed the holdup was at the direction of the government, which faces a general election in six months.

MPP Han Dong has not yet seen the final report but he says he is hopeful that the government was preparing a far-reaching “industry-norm changing” plan to deal with elevator maintenance and availability.

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the TSSA, said he was unable to provide any details on the report or the holdup of its release.

“It is indeed a TSSA report — we commissioned it and paid for it,” Robinson said. “But we were asked to provide the report to the ministry for their consideration before making it public.”

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the Elevator world.  Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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