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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

New York City Department of Buildings
Elevator Safety


Issued: June 6, 2018
Link to full audit report 2017-N-4
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether elevator inspections and tests are done timely and properly by inspectors who have the proper credentials. Our audit covered the period January 1, 2015 through October 20, 2017.

Background
The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) is responsible for regulating the safe and lawful use of more than 1 million buildings and construction sites in New York City. This responsibility includes the oversight of elevators that are subject to the New York City Administrative Code, Building Code, and the Rules of the City of New York. DOB is responsible for enforcing these codes and rules. DOB inspects some elevators, oversees the inspection of others done by companies hired by DOB (non-DOB inspectors), ensures elevators are tested, and monitors the results. The Building Code requires elevators under DOB’s jurisdiction to be inspected and tested annually. Inspections are generally performed by non-DOB inspectors and tests are performed by inspectors hired by building owners. DOB has authorized the New York City Housing Authority to perform its own elevator inspections and tests. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is responsible for the inspection and testing of its elevators.

Key Findings

  • We selected a judgmental sample of 12 elevators located in nine buildings, and observed, along with DOB inspectors, the inspection of these elevators by DOB contractors (non-DOB elevator inspectors) to determine whether elevator inspections were performed timely and properly. We found that elevator inspections are not properly done and, as a result, unsafe conditions are not always identified and remediated promptly:
    • We noted that two of nine non-DOB elevator inspectors had signed inspection certificates showing that they had inspected 15 elevators in 14 buildings. However, these elevators had not yet been inspected. Several of these elevators were not in our audit sample.
    • Three non-DOB inspectors failed to identify defective door restrictors, which may cause a door to open between floors – an imminently hazardous condition that requires an elevator to be taken out of service (cease use) until the problem is repaired.
    • Inspectors determined that the hoist cables (used to raise and lower elevators) for two elevators at two different buildings showed evidence of rouging – abrasions that cause the hoist cables to wear. At the first building, the rouging was missed by the non-DOB inspector. In another building, the non-DOB inspector, while noting the issue, did not have the required tool (gauge) to measure the diameters of the hoist cables, which would enable the inspector to determine the seriousness of the issue.
    • Non-DOB inspectors did not follow DOB’s procedures and overlooked 29 violations, including an elevator emergency telephone not working, an expired fire extinguisher in the elevator machine room, and missing maintenance schedules and logs. DOB staff attributed this to non-DOB inspectors using procedures that are not as strict as those used by DOB’s inspectors.
  • We also reviewed DOB inspection data and saw no evidence that non-DOB inspectors performed 8,087 of 62,166 required elevator inspections in 2015 and 6,741 of the required 63,314 elevator inspections in 2016. In many instances, the inspectors could not gain access to elevators and/or buildings.

Key Recommendations

  • Reinforce with elevator inspection companies the required procedures for proper elevator inspections and for identifying elevators that need to be taken out of service.
  • Mandate that non-DOB inspectors comply with DOB procedures when performing elevator inspections.
  • Ensure that DOB communicates upcoming inspections with building owners. Establish specific deadlines by which building owners should respond to no-access inspection attempts.
  • Use more forceful measures, including monetary penalties, against building owners when elevator tests are not performed.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
New York City Department of Buildings: Elevator Inspections and Tests (2007-N-9)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Kenrick Sifontes
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236