Written by Chip Nyborg, President of Tri-State Elevator. June 7th, 2018
We have read with great interest and concern the NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s audit report of elevator inspections in New York City. The link below is to the summary of the report. The full report can be accessed via the link in the summary, a scathing report as you will read. However please take the report in context of the points below.
The audit sheds light to a complex process in the largest elevator market in the world. As a contractor we endeavor to provide timely and accurate elevator service and support service to our clients. We work with numerous building owner hired inspectors as we perform the required testing. We also receive violations issued by the DOB, an ECB violation as well as violations issued by the 2 city hired inspection agencies, PVT violations. Overall, we find the inspection reports accurate and when working with inspectors, the inspectors to be knowledgeable of the inspection process and code requirements.
Imagine the complexity of inspecting and testing 70,000 elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters etc. that date back to 1900 or older, from dozens of manufacturer’s some out of business, with 100 years of technology advancement! It is not easy. Elevators are vastly more complex today than ever before. This complexity in part arises to meet elevator code requirements. Today, older elevators are in many cases a combination of equipment 50-70 years old and brand new equipment, which is the result of modernizing an older elevator. So the complexity of inspecting and testing, is increased yet even more when taking this into account. The elevators are required to meet the codes in effect at the time of installation and/or modernization and the code rules that are applicable to all existing elevators including retro-active requirements today. There are 1,000’s of pages of elevator code over the course of the past 100 years. Very complex indeed. Likely a room full inspectors will have differing opinions and interpretations of the code rules. Also a room full of elevator experts could argue for hours the particular wording or punctuation of a code rule. I know this to be the case as I donate my time to write elevator code. Naturally so, any group of experts are going to have different viewpoints, now add in the complexity above and you can begin to see just how difficult the job of inspecting and testing can be.
No question the NYC DOB has a monumental task of inspecting, enforcing and testing 10,000’s of devices every year. Let us not overlook the fact that elevators are the safest means of mass transportation. It is often reported that the entire population of the earth rides on an elevator every 3 days, that is a lot of elevator trips. As officials push for safer elevators, as they should, the question remains at what point of 1000’s of pages of code, multiple inspections and testing are going to be enough, or even too much for the industry and inspectors to absorb?
No system is perfect, no single best solution, but I fully believe the NYC DOB elevator testing and inspecting procedures are as best as can be given the magnitude of the complexity of our industry with thoughtful and careful oversight by NYC and NYS. No doubt NYC DOB will enhance and refine the inspection and testing process as well as the oversight noted by the audit and work to improve the safety of elevators and to mitigate nefarious activity mentioned in the audit.
Link to Summary of Report: