State deals with elevator inspection backlog, buildings also responsible

Local News

The state has been dealing with a backlog in inspections of nearly 7,000 elevators for years now.

The inspections of operating permits are supposed to occur annually.

A viewer used Report It to let us know about a posted elevator permit that expired more than four years ago.

KHON2 checked on the claim and found that the posted permit had indeed expired. We also found the exact same problem in another elevator at a nearby building.

The elevators in both buildings posted permits in the elevators that expired in September 2010.

KHON2 called the property manager to find out whether the inspection permits had been delayed and got no immediate response.

The Hawaii Office of Occupational Safety and Health (HIOSH) is an office within the state Department of Labor. The office is responsible for conducting annual inspections of elevators.

A spokesman for the office says the two elevators had actually been inspected after 2010, but the newer permits also expired last year. One expired in February 2014, the other in November 2014.

Bill Kunstman, spokesman for the Department of Labor, told KHON2 that “the owner or the owner’s agent is responsible for requesting inspections. The department does not currently send out notices.”

State Rep. Karl Rhoads, D-Kalihi, Palama, Iwilei, Chinatown, who lives in a high-rise himself in downtown Honolulu, was able to get the legislature to fund inspector positions to deal with the backlog of inspections of elevators in current buildings, as well as with elevators in high-rises slated for construction.

“We couldn’t keep enough elevator inspectors employed because we couldn’t pay them as much as the private sector,” said Rhoads, “and so the back-log was getting very, very long.”

Rhoads added that “we couldn’t get the elevators inspected when they were building a new building, so that slows down construction something terrible.”

Kunstman said with money from state lawmakers, HIOSH was able to fill 11 of 13 inspector positions, and the office is on the verge of hiring two more.

The Honolulu Fire Department said in 2013, rescue teams responded to 222 calls to help people stranded in elevators, but says most of those calls occurred during power outages.

Fire spokesman Capt. David Jenkins says people who find themselves stuck in an elevator should remain calm. “Call 911 for help, and when the rescue personnel show up, follow their instructions,” said Jenkins. “If you can’t use a phone to call for help, use your voice and be patient.”

Kunstman says “the department does not currently send out notices, but is developing an online system for permits, and issuing notices is one of the options we are exploring with the new system.”

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