Thousands of elevators across NC overdue for safety inspections

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You see it every time you get on an elevator – a form with the state labor commissioner’s face on it that tells you when the elevator was last inspected.

That’s meant to ensure your elevator ride is safe.

But, CBS 17 found out thousands of elevators are overdue for those inspections, including at places such as the Raleigh Municipal Building on Hargett Street and the Wake County Justice Center.

The North Carolina Department of Labor has full-time employees who have the responsibility of inspecting about 27,000 elevators, escalators and similar devices across the state once per year.

While the department aims to meet that goal every year, CBS 17 recently analyzed the inspection data for those devices and found that’s not happening.

As of late September, about 14 percent of elevators were overdue for inspection.

In Cumberland County, that jumps to 24.9 percent.

In Wake County, it’s 25.6 percent.

Orange County had one of the highest overdue rates at 48.6 percent.

Based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 30 people die and 17,000 are seriously hurt in incidents on elevators and escalators each year. 

In an interview with CBS 17, Phil Hooper with the North Carolina Department of Labor explained why the state has fallen behind.

“Well, the biggest thing that we face is, we’re having trouble recruiting and hiring qualified elevator inspectors,” he said.

The Department has added positions for inspectors, but Hooper said there currently are nine open positions.

To become an inspector, you need five years’ experience in the trade and become certified if not already.

Inspectors also have the responsibility of inspecting amusement rides at places like the North Carolina State Fair.

He said inspectors can go through a two-year training program to inspect rides if they don’t already have the necessary experience.

Hooper said the private sector often pays better. Starting pay for inspectors is $53,083.

“It’s a juggling act that we’re trying to keep all the balls up in the air at the same time, and if you run out of hands, some of the balls may drop,” Hooper said.

Elevator owners are required to have contracts to maintain them, and the state will respond if you call about a particular issue. But, the inspectors are supposed to serve as the extra set of eyes to ensure safety for the public, Hooper said.

CBS 17 asked Hooper, “What assurances can you give the public that they are indeed going to be safe?”

He replied, “I would say it’s up to the owner of the device to have a maintenance contract to keep the unit maintained.”

He said the Department has to get better at recruiting and retaining employees, noting the department has hired six new inspectors this year.

To view the inspection records in your community, click here.

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