One half of UCSB’s 87 elevators are operating on expired safety permits and the other half are set to expire in the next few months.
State officials at the Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s Elevator, Ride and Tramway Unit are responsible for issuing safety permits. According to DOSH inspector John Pevehouse, the state is currently incapable of keeping the tags up-to-date. He said his department is severely lacking in manpower and constrained by a mandatory two-day-a-month furlough for state employees. Due to the deficiency, DOSH has strategically allowed UCSB’s safety permits to lapse in order to minimize their workload.
“What we try to do is get all the elevators due [for safety inspection], and then we come out one time and do all the inspections.” Pevehouse said. “To be honest with you there are a lot of elevators out there that are expired because we’re undermanned. Like this Friday, we’re not even working. If you’ve got 10,000 elevators and seven people, it’s tough to get to every one.”
With state officials holding out until every permit has expired, campus elevators may not receive state inspection until May.
According to Maurice Startzman, a Senior Craft Lead responsible for UCSB’s elevators, while the state is obliged to check the elevators annually, this is not the first time the routine inspections have been neglected.
“The inspector can just come out and inspect the elevator without notifying the owner,” Startzman said. “Pretty much every year we have to keep calling them and sending them letters.”
California Labor Code 7302 makes operation of an elevator illegal without a valid permit. Violators are subject to $1,000 in fines for every day of operation without a permit. By submitting a written letter requesting inspection, however, the university is relieved of liability and not subject to fines.
Although the elevator safety permits have expired, Startzman said the lifts are still routinely monitored for safety.
UCSB contracts a mechanic from KONE Elevators along with its own mechanics in order to maintain campus conveyances. Additionally, modern elevators are built with a number of fail-safe devices such as multiple cables, brakes and built-in phones for trapped passengers.
“Safety is always our number one concern.” Startzman said. “There is always somebody watching these elevators. [UCSB’s] mechanic inspects not only for unsafe conditions but for performance issues. Elevators are actually the safest form of public transportation there is. For each elevator accident there are millions of trips that occur. These things are running day and night, and how often do you hear of an elevator accident?”
According to Startzman, the most common elevator accident is tripping while stepping onto an elevator. If the floor of an elevator is not in line with the floor outside, passengers can fall while getting on or off an elevator.
Those who feel discomfort riding in elevators overdue for inspection always have another option. UCSB Exercise and Sports Studies Dept. instructor Rich Powell said he believes stairs are always the best choice.
“Avoid elevators and take the stairs whenever you can!” Powell said. “Your cardiovascular health depends on it.”