Let’s Elevate NY To A Higher Level of Safety
Op-Ed By Frank Spotorno
I have been manufacturing and inspecting elevators in New York State for 35 years. Our State has 10% of all of the elevators in our country, yet we do not have a law that requires elevator repair men and women obtain training and licensing before they work on an elevator that you may enter. And the public safety is at risk.
For the first time in NY history, this year an unlicensed elevator repairman was sentence to jail time for his ‘shortcut’ in repairing an elevator in Brooklyn, resulting in Debra Jordan losing her leg as a result of getting caught in the elevator. She barely made it out alive and is now confined to a wheelchair.
The lack of a state law means that the responsibility rests with the municipalities and local governments, with mixed results. A NYC Comptroller’s audit found 20% of elevators sampled were not inspected and that the NYC housing authority had neglected to perform 40% of regular maintenance on its elevators.
A recent story on News 12 Westchester highlighted how senior tenants who live in a public housing complex had numerous complaints about one or both of their elevators not working, and out of service
35 states in our country require training and licensing including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey on January 1, 2016. Why hasn’t New York State passed this law?
There is currently a bill in the State Senate which is a common sense solution to an every growing safety concern. Bill # S—1945-2015—“Requires the licensing of persons engaged in the design, construction, operation, inspection, maintenance, alteration and repair of elevators and other automatic people moving devices and creates the New York state elevator safety and standards board and the elevator and related conveyances safety program account.”
The purpose of this bill is “to reduce unsafe elevator hazards by requiring proper training of persons employed to design, construct, inspect, maintain, alter and repair elevators and other automated people moving conveyances and requiring the licensing of individuals involved in elevator projects.”
I have been working to get this bill passed for 4 years, and I need your help. It is imperative that it passes now, for the millions of New Yorkers and commuters who ride the elevators and escalators on daily basis, but also for visitors, and residents of senior housing and public housing.
It is time to hold accountable companies that do not comply with the Industry recognized education and training, like the National Elevator Industry Education and Training Program, which provides all new apprentices a five year training, followed by a comprehensive written test to ensure the public and their employer are properly trained and prepared to service our public elevators and escalators.
Too many companies are allowing individual without any experience program to enter the elevator work force without any comprehensive training and continue to follow this pattern of non-safety.
As a third party witnessing inspector for the past 8 years, I want our state leaders to pass this common sense law this session.
Here’s what you can do to help. Our State Senators representing Westchester have all committed their support for the bill, and more than 37 senators will also vote yes…if this bill every makes it to the senate floor. If the bill makes it to the senate floor it will pass.
We need you to contact your senator and urge them to call for this Bill to be called up for a vote this session before Senators go on summer recess. This is not just a New York City bill, it includes Westchester and every town, village and city in New York that has an elevator or escalator.
Facts You Need to Know
Accidents involving elevators and escalators kill about 30 people and seriously injure about 17,000 people each year in the United States, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Elevator accidents account for almost 90 percent of those deaths and 60 percent of serious injuries.
State and local authorities recognize such hazards and require periodic inspections of elevators and escalators. Organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers have set standards for the construction and maintenance of elevators and escalators and for their safe operation.
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries research studies are compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and analyze work-related elevator deaths and also summarizes deaths of passengers documented in escalator and elevator incident investigations. Elevator deaths involving passengers come from falling into elevator shafts and getting caught between the elevator door or elevator shaft.
Many of the elevator- and escalator-related deaths could have been prevented if adequate maintenance and inspection procedures had been in place in the involved buildings. One recommendation in a California investigation was that employers have all elevators inspected and serviced regularly by a licensed elevator technician (California Department of Health Services, 1993).
Unqualified and untrained personnel performing elevator repair and maintenance are part of the cause for some of these injuries and deaths. The people of New York deserve properly licensed employees working on our elevators and escalators.
In 2002, the National Elevator Industry Education Program received formal approval from the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer and Labor Services for its four-year elevator constructor apprenticeship program. The NEIEP is a labor/management trust of the International Union of Elevator Constructors and the National Elevator Industry, Inc.
Thirty-five states now require that elevator mechanics, inspectors and contractors (except Vermont) be licensed. Licensing is a common requirement in professions that affect worker safety and health, and the education and work-related experience should be a common-sense requirement in all 50 states – especially the Empire State.
Frank Spotorno is president of Park Avenue Elevator Designs and Park Line Elevator Inspections, and the founder of bringourjobshome.com.