Elevator – States Make It Clear Its Your Fault

Elevator interior

Because installing traditional elevators take so long and there are a limited amount of elevator contractors, with only so many hours in a day, elevators in many jurisdictions are falling out of compliance regarding inspections. That is the impression that some are trying to infer as officials in a recent story say that inspections of elevators have often taken place and they are waiting on the required repairs before they give their stamp of approval or re-inspection.

There is some truth to the assertion. An unfortunate reality is the mechanic’s time is over taxed on doing new installs because they take months and months to complete. This drain on hours results in them often being the scapegoat and shouldering much of the blame for out of compliance elevators in some people’s minds. This inevitably  leads to the blame game of who is ultimately responsible. Constant pointing of the finger seems to come second nature in the elevator industry as they bicker,  “It is the state’s fault”, “No its the elevator company’s fault”. Its enough to make your head spin.

Greed Is Good

Now let me be clear, this is not a defense of the big elevator companies. The companies are choosing to do new installations, not necessarily for the profitability of the installation itself, but for the juicy long-term maintenance contract. That is the most lucrative segment of the industry. So they are prioritizing their efforts towards long-term sustained profits not the one time install. Of course elevator companies and their technicians are responsible for their own time management and although there are only so many hours in the day they could use those hours more effectively to free up time for maintenance and repairs. One way to save time would be to use a modular elevator (the startup takes a week not months). This would free up more time for maintenance and keeping up with the punch list produced by state inspectors.

But is it really the elevator contractor or the state inspector that is responsible for the elevator? Especially if the elevator is broken?

Blame Game

That was the question posed in a recent news story done by the NBC affiliate in the San Diego area. The set up to the story was text book. Start with the premise (the state has too many elevators lacking inspections leading to unsafe elevators), then find a person that is dependent on the elevator to get to their apartment, show how their life is turned upside down due to lack of a fully functioning elevator and then have a representative from the state video taped in a gotcha moment. Very formulaic indeed.

We are even given a grainy video that looked like a hostage confession reel from an unfeeling bureaucrat. It was even shot at an odd camera angle to accentuate her in all the wrong ways while responding to the charges, but the “gotcha” kind of fell flat because Erika Monterroza from the Department of Industrial Relations makes clear at the 2:52 mark of the story that the blame ultimately resides in one place…with the building owner.

Yes it would be nice to blame the state or the elevator company, but ultimately the responsibility is always the building owner’s. It is after all their elevator. And although the news story is from 2018, the overall point is still valid. If you own a building with an elevator, the responsibility for the safety, maintenance and licensing falls to the the one that owns the building.

List of Do’s

So what can you do if you are a manager or building owner? Here are some things to consider:

  1. Start shopping immediately. It can be real hard to find a responsive elevator contractor.
  2. Immediately cancel your contract. Usually buried in the fine print it gives you a window to cancel and if you don’t you have an automatic renewal often times at a higher rate.
  3. With all the calendar apps available, use one to note your certificate expiration date and give yourself at least 60 days to make all the phone calls.
  4. Be the squeaky wheel. If it is your responsibility, take it seriously and be a pest if you must. The elevator company and even the state may find you annoying but better that than to be out of compliance.
  5. Climb the ladder. Do this by talking to the boss or finding a different company to work with. With the state go over everyone’s head if needed. Contact legislators, representatives or the governor’s office if needed.
  6. See #2. Immediately cancel your elevator contract (even if the renewal is five years away).

It is a shame to have to go to such lengths to get your elevator properly inspected and licensed, but because everyone in the industry is so busy, and elevator contractors are interested in new installations that take forever, it is a reality you will have to deal with. The bottom-line is as a business owner you need to keep tabs and keep your elevator in compliance.

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