ABC11 Investigates

Audit shines light on elevator inspections in North Carolina

Thursday, June 13, 2013
Inside an elevator

A new state audit shows that elevators who were found to have problems during inspections rarely got re-inspected in a timely fashion.

ABC11 went to one of the older elevators in Raleigh Thursday. Inside the elevator is a post from the Secretary of Labor saying it has been inspected and is safe.

However, the audit released Thursday might raise questions about the safety of that elevator and several others.

Among the findings, the audit shows that 3 percent of the elevators in the state that had problems in their 2012 inspection had follow up inspections to see if the problems had been fixed.

Also, elevator owners are required by law to tell the state when problems are fixed, but they are not held to that. Penalties are rarely imposed and are small when they are.

In its response to the audit, the Department of Labor said it is working on new procedures to track violations.

A spokesperson told ABC11 that if their inspection finds an elevator to be unsafe, they shut it down.

Click here to read the audit

The following are the Department of Labor's responses to each key finding released in the audit

Only 3% of the elevators with violations in 2012 had a follow-up inspection.
"As I stated over the phone, the Elevator and Amusement Device inspectors inspect more than 23,000 elevators, handicap lifts and dumbwaiters a year (23,784 in Fiscal year 2012 to be exact). If a violation puts the public in danger, the device is shut down. Most of the violations are minor violations such as dirty pits, a light burned out or using the elevator for storage. The owner of the elevator has 60 days to report what corrective action has been taken. The Elevator Bureau is working to implement a new software system that will help them track that corrective action has in fact been taken."

Elevator penalty reductions and waivers deviate from state law and internal policy.
" The Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau policy addressing penalty calculation clearly states the criteria to be used when calculating penalties. The bureau will re-educate all inspectors on the proper calculations of penalties using the penalty adjustment factors set out in the bureau's operations manual. This re-education will also include the necessity to retain supporting documentation of the penalty reduction."

Elevator penalties are nominal. They are rarely imposed and small when they are.
"They assess penalties in compliance with statute. Many of the violations are minor and pose no threat to public safety and no penalty is assessed. "

The Wage Bureau did not complete follow up investigations on agreements made with companies to correct violations of labor laws.
"The Wage and Hour Bureau has adopted new written procedures which became effective April 1, 2013, to ensure the follow up investigations are completed in a timely manner."

Wage Bureau investigators assess and collect penalties, which increases the risk of error and fraud.
"The bureau has modified its policies so that inspectors do not collect monies in the field."

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