Department shuts down four elevators in RI buildings
January 4, 2012
In a new safety initiative, the RI Department of Labor and Training personnel visited seven RI buildings today with the intent of shutting down their elevators, because the buildings’ owners had failed to meet elevator inspection requirements for more than 12 months. Four elevators were subsequently shut down:
While these elevators were shut down for reasons of compliance and not imminent danger, the department’s position is that the owners’ neglect of annual inspection laws constituted a public safety risk. The other three buildings visited by departmental personnel today had either completed inspections within the last 24 hours or had a scheduled inspection today, and therefore were not shut down.
RI Department of Labor and Training Director Charles J. Fogarty states, “Safety is a top priority for the department and the Chafee administration, and we are committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure that the elevators in Rhode Island are safe for public use.” He adds, “For the past four months, we have had ongoing communications with elevator owners about the need for up-to-date inspections. Fortunately, an overwhelming number of owners have responded appropriately by making sure their elevators meet the safety guidelines set by the state.” In Rhode Island, owners of existing elevators are required by law to have their devices inspected by authorized inspectors on an annual basis. Fogarty also praises the state’s elevator service providers for taking swift action to bring lagging inspections up to date.
Currently, there are 2,994 passenger elevators and 336 freight elevators in the department’s database. Annual inspections of elevators include reviews of hoisting mechanisms; braking, speed and safety controls; and two-way communication systems. Currently, 89 percent of RI elevators have been inspected within the past year and 98 percent have been inspected within the past 15 months.
The issue of outdated elevator inspections came to light in August, when the department was actively engaged in a review of the department’s workforce regulation and safety policies and procedures. This review, begun earlier in the year, was intended to identify areas where efficiency and customer service could be improved.
In September, the department mailed courtesy letters to 123 owners of elevators that were currently listed as operational but that had not met inspection requirements in more than 12 months, urging them to have their elevators inspected. Responses to these letters revealed that many elevators originally considered delinquent in their annual inspections had actually been inspected recently, but that the appropriate paperwork had not been filed with the department. Other responses revealed that some elevators had been decommissioned and were not currently in service. The mailing spurred the majority of the remaining owners to have their elevator inspections updated.
Also in September and October, the department held three separate meetings with elevator service providers to inform them of the department’s efforts to bring elevators with out-of-date inspections into compliance and to urge them to work with the owners involved in a timely manner.
In November, the department issued notices of violation to the remaining 67 owners, requesting that inspections be completed within 30 days. The 27 who did not comply were issued compliance orders in early December, warning of an impending shutdown and certificate revocation. By statute, elevator owners have a 15-day time frame for appealing a compliance order. During the last week of December, the remaining elevator owners were informed by telephone that shutdowns would occur the following week if the elevators in question had not been inspected by that time.
This month, the department plans to mail a reminder of the annual inspection requirements to all RI elevator owners. It also plans to mail courtesy letters to all owners whose elevators are more than three months overdue for inspection, urging them to comply with inspection requirements. The department will then target the most out-of-date elevators for potential shutdown.
In a related matter, the department’s Legal Division submitted new regulations for elevator inspection enforcement protocols to the Secretary of State’s office in December. These revised regulations, compiled after reviewing current elevator inspections policies and researching best practices in neighboring states, were a direct result of the department’s review of its workforce regulation and safety policies.
Elevator inspections are overseen by the Occupational Safety Unit of the department’s Workforce Regulations and Safety Division. The Elevator Safety section of the Occupational Safety Unit insures that all elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters, moving walks, wheelchair lifts, material lifts, conveyors and other related devices are inspected on an annual basis. To report an issue with an elevator in Rhode Island, please contact (401) 462-8570. This contact number is listed on the certificate of operation displayed in the interior of all RI elevators.
ABOUT DLT: The RI Department of Labor and Training offers employment services, educational services and economic opportunity to both individuals and employers. DLT protects Rhode Island’s workforce by enforcing labor laws, prevailing wage rates and workplace health and safety standards. The department also provides temporary income support to unemployed and temporarily disabled workers. For more information on the programs and services available to all Rhode Islanders, please call the RI Department of Labor and Training at (401) 462-8000 or visit the web site at www.dlt.ri.gov.