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Comptroller's Office Review: Many County Elevators Not Inspected

Review found many elevators used by the public and county workers not inspected at all, not inspected in a timely manner, and out of compliance with New York State Building Codes

(Buffalo) – A review by the Office of Erie County Comptroller found many elevators were not inspected at all over the past two years, and others not inspected in a timely manner, both violations of New York State Building Codes.  The review also found a lack of oversight over keeping elevators inspected, including only having one part-time worker being responsible for the entire system of elevator inspections, and insufficient record keeping.

An email to the Comptroller’s Office through the “Whistleblower Hotline” from a concerned taxpayer prompted the review of whether or not county elevators are properly inspected.

Auditors identified deficiencies regarding the lack of elevator inspections and notified the administration in a memo dated November 4th, 2013.

In a county wide email distributed to all workers on December 2nd, 2013, the county notified employees that inspections of all Rath Building lobby elevators and two freight elevator cars would take place on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013.

“We expressed concerns about the safety of elevators in county buildings.  Our findings that identified numerous deficiencies were shared with the administration.  It appears they are taking corrective action to fix the problems we identified for them. This is exactly how county government should work to protect taxpayers.  The Office of Comptroller troubleshoots and identifies problems, brings it to the attention of the administration, and the problem is fixed through cooperation and collaboration.”

“That being said, the people we serve should be protected in elevators within county government.  The county must do a better job keeping workers and members of the public safe when in our buildings,” said Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw.

According to the review the following deficiencies were identified when auditors tried to review records related to elevator inspections and safety: 

  • Nine elevators at the Rath Building, 95 Franklin Street, were not current on their five-year required tests/inspections
  • Four elevators at Old County Hall, 92 Franklin Street, were not current on their five-year required tests/inspections
  • Two elevators at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens were not current on their six-month inspections
  • A total of 37 code violations were identified dating back as far as 2003 and include: issues with electrical box covers, emergency phone communications, audible signal devices, firefighter instruction signs, and fire recall and firefighter’s service

The Comptroller’s Office review found insufficient staffing levels to keep elevators inspected.  Only one part-time employee is responsible for oversight of the inspection process and that individual usually only works three days per week.  There is no other county employee overseeing this process when this individual is out of work.  At one point in 2012 the employee was out ten weeks on extended sick leave.

“The county should train additional workers to assist the oversight of inspections.  This would ensure inspections are not missed.  Findings show this is nearly impossible to do with only one part-time worker responsible for keeping elevators safe,” added Comptroller Mychajliw.

During the course of the review Department of Public Works (DPW) employees could not locate inspection and test reports for periods in 2012 for many of the elevators.  Copies of inspections and test reports were not retained by DPW. The Department of Public Works is responsible for elevator inspection oversight and compliance of the 62 elevators in 13 county buildings. 

To read the full review of county elevator inspections please click this link