What to Expect from New Elevator Inspection Requirements
After last year's two unfortunate crane accidents, the New York City's Department of Buildings (DOB) is making increased efforts to better manage its resources and increase the supervision of its inspectors. Now, the DOB has begun a program in which all of the DOB's crane and elevator inspectors are tracked using GPS technology in their department-issued cell phones.
The new tracking system was put in place in part because of an inspector who was charged last year with faking a report that he inspected a tower crane on the East Side of Manhattan in response to a complaint. He never visited the crane, and 11 days later, it toppled and killed seven people. The DOB has described the new system as one way to improve the accountability of the department and its inspectors.
This year, apartment building owners should pay special attention to their building's safety systems and the new DOB elevator inspection requirements that became effective in January of this year. Besides possible increased DOB scrutiny, last year's death of a 5-year-old boy who tried to escape from a stalled elevator and fell 10 stories down an elevator shaft at a public housing development in Brooklyn is a somber reminder that it is in an owner's best interest to make building systems as safe as possible for tenants.
With the help of Stephen Kleva, chief executive officer of City Spec, Inc., we will highlight the regulatory elevator inspection changes that affect you, and discuss warning signs that your building's elevator systems might not be in good working order.
Testing Frequency, Independent Witnessing
“Before the new law, owners were required to have three tests done in a five-year period,” says Kleva. Two tests were “no load” or non-weighted tests performed every two years, and one test was a “full load” test done once every five years. Now, with the new maintenance law, the five-year test remains, but two-year tests have been replaced by a combined inspection and test that are required every year.
Hydraulic elevators, which had two-year tests, will now also have a yearly combined inspection and test. Therefore, over the course of five years, there will be two additional tests for roped elevators and three additional tests for hydraulic. While elevator-maintenance contracts generally cover the two- and five-year tests, owners should expect to hear from their contractors regarding new fees for the extra tests.
According to Kleva, procedurally, the biggest change is the requirement to have an independent third-party agency present at the time of inspection. The third-party private inspection agency is hired to witness and certify the test and cannot be affiliated with the elevator-maintenance contractor due to potential conflicts of interest. Previously, the maintenance contractor was allowed to inspect himself.
Paperwork and Planning Ahead
From a logistical standpoint, Kleva points out that coordinating two inspection agencies will take additional planning, and the coordination of two busy inspection companies can be cumbersome. “Two different companies now have to match their schedule. And now it is the owner's responsibility to find an independent witness to certify the inspection of his or her testing company,” says Kleva.
With the new law, the filing timeline has been tightened. The report must be submitted by the end of the year instead of September 15, and the report must be submitted within 45 days of the inspection. As always, critical violations require immediate shutdown and repair, but now nonhazardous violations will have to be listed as well.
Also, any violations or deficiencies that are noted in the report must be corrected within 45 days of when the inspection results are filed. The city will conduct random testing to verify violations have been addressed.
Annual Inspection, Warning Signs
The annual inspection involves checking the safety elements such as the shafts and cables of the elevator. Although the yearly inspections are not “load” tests with weights, the inspector will check the elevator shafts and cables. The test will indicate whether the elevator should be running on a daily basis in its current condition.
Although your elevator maintenance contract may require technicians to come to check your systems periodically, owners and staff should be vigilant year round for any problems with elevators. Any tenant complaints about the elevator should be taken seriously, and a record should be made of the complaint and actions that were taken to resolve the issue. Too many elevator malfunctions or shut-downs may indicate poor maintenance.
Another sign to be watchful for is mis-leveling when the doors open. In other words, the elevator stops slightly above or below the floor, rather than precisely at the floor. This may indicate that the brakes are worn. Owners should also check to ensure that the equipment in the elevator machine room is clean and free of dust. The equipment should be kept in a neat and clean fashion.
Overall, Kleva believes the additional requirements are a good change. Owners may complain of the costs attached to having additional elevator inspections and hiring witnesses. But for all that additional effort and money, the elevator systems will be safer, more reliable, and last longer. A few hundred dollars for an inspection is a drop in the bucket compared to thousands of dollars in repair costs or, even worse, litigation costs due to a tenant's injury.
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