State falling far behind on elevator inspections

Tracy Okubo
Tracy Okubo

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Budget constraints and chronic understaffing has led to a big backlog of elevator inspections around the state, with nearly four out of five elevators in Hawaii operating with expired permits.

The Garden Island newspaper reported that some Kauai elevators, including at government buildings, hold permits that expired as far back as 2008.

According to Chapter 397 of the state's Boiler and Elevator Safety Law, elevators must be examined and tested by a state elevator inspector once a year. There are 6,700 elevators in the state, according to the state's Occupational Safety and Health Division. The newspaper said that 78 percent of elevators and related systems in Hawaii have expired operating permits.

Many of us probably don't notice those permits, because many elevators don't have the permits on public display. Some elevators have a sign, indicating that the permit is available elsewhere -- in the management office, for example.

Makiki resident Tracy Okubo, meantime, got stuck in an elevator at her condo Tuesday night.

"I guess they were re-timing the doors so that it would close a little slower," Okubo said. "And I guess when they made that adjustment, it threw everything else off, so it just wouldn't open."

Would Okubo be concerned about elevators not being inspected that often?

"Yes, but at the same time I talked to my resident manager, and she had given me the reassurances that our elevators are up to code, and she did go over all the additional safety precautions that were put in with our elevators in our building to make sure that those worst-case scenarios didn't happen," Okubo said.

Bill Kunstman of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations issued a statement saying:

Our top priority is ensuring the public's safety. Our department has been unable to complete timely inspections and address the backlog of inspections for elevators due to budget constraints and other factors.

We are addressing this issue quickly and responsibly. We have reached out to some stakeholders and are working on a short-term solution to find funding for additional inspectors and create a plan to reduce the backlog of inspections.

We need to find a long-term solution to this challenge, which would likely require additional funds from the Legislature.

While permits and inspections may not be up to date, most elevators appear to be getting regular maintenance anyway. The Garden Island reports that while the permits for all seven elevators in the Kauai Judicial Building have expired, they are all getting monthly maintenance.

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