• Elevator inspections now Oklahoma's responsibility

    By: Shae Rozzi

    Updated:

    Elevator inspections now state’s responsibility
    Quick facts:

    • City of Tulsa’s inspection program of local elevators ended, yearlong transition to state responsibility almost up.
    • Fox23 investigates how the state’s five current inspectors can handle the additional 2,174 inspections in the Tulsa area.
    • Some incorrect information is causing confusion, a backlog, and the need to hire temporary workers.

     
    Getting stuck in an elevator can be scary, but it happens in Tulsa and across the state.
     
    FOX23’s Shae Rozzi talked to a national safety expert about concerns Oklahoma’s elevator inspection program is broken.
     
    Rozzi contacted the Tulsa Fire Department and got a list of calls for “removal of victim from stalled elevator.” 
     
    FOX23 discovered they had 27 calls in 2013, 20 in 2014 and six in 2015.
     
     OfOf the calls Tulsa firefighters responded to this year, 3 three have come from Inhofe Plaza in south Tulsa. In one, they had to rescue someone from a stalled elevator.
     
    When Rozzi called the property manager to ask if the elevator had been fixed since a May 3 incident, she said both are working.  
     
    FOX23 contacted the Tulsa Housing Authority to see the permits and maintenance reports.
     
    In June 2015, the city of Tulsa sent a memo to management groups and properties with elevators, announcing it’s ending its elevator inspection program and transferring the responsibility to the State Department of Labor.
     
    The city said newer statewide regulations would mean they’d have to hire “several additional qualified elevator inspectors,” and continuing local inspections is “neither cost effective nor efficient.”
     
    On the Department of Labor website, Rozzi read through the list more than 2,100 elevators in Tulsa.

    SEE MORE: Department of Labor and elevators
     
    “It's a large volume of data,” said Melissa McLawhorn-Houston, labor commissioner.
     
    For the Tulsa County Health Department, FOX23 found four elevators listed showing their permits expired in 2011.   
     
    But a spokesperson sent an email stating the health department only has two elevators.
    One was just inspected in December 2015, and they have an annual maintenance contract with a local provider.
     
    FOX23 found nine elevators listed for the Tulsa County Courthouse and the information on the labor department’s site shows permits expired in 2010 and, in some cases, 2008. 
     
    The county spokesperson sent FOX23 inspection certificates dated November 2015 that don’t expire until November 2016.
     
    “It's a large volume of data, and I’m not sure how great the data was that came from the city of Tulsa to make sure it's where it needs to be. We've hired temporary help to make sure that the database is up to date,” said McLawhorn-Houston.
     
    While users may not be able to trust the accuracy of information online just yet, the commissioner said they can trust that they’re doing their best to keep you safe.
     
    “Their safety is our first priority,” McLawhorn-Houston said.
     
    She said the state has dedicated two elevator inspectors to handle the more than 2,100 Tulsa area inspections and has a third in northeast Oklahoma who can help. 
     
    They’re also in the process of cross training state fair ride inspectors to handle elevator inspections.
     
    She also points out most serious accidents do not involve the public.
     
    “The most likely accident or death in an elevator occurs from a mechanic who may be working on it or an inspector who may be inspecting it, so that's really the greatest threat,” she said.
     
    “Should the public be concerned that this is now all on the state?” Rozzi asked.
     
    “The public should not be concerned. It certainly is not going to be as quick as we would like it to be, but within the resources we've been given, we are absolutely going to be doing our job to ensure the safety of the public is going to be taken care of,” she said.
     
    State elevator inspectors will be prioritizing new construction inspections first, along with any safety incidents that come up, and then they’ll continue with annual inspections.
     
    The city of Tulsa kept one inspector over this last year during the transition, but his position ends this month.

    Officials with the Tulsa Housing Authority responded with a statement Wednesday:

    “A complete elevator modernization was done at Inhofe over the past year. As a result, THA contracted with Thyssenkrupp Elevator, one of the nation’s leading companies, to renovate and improve the Inhofe elevators. These renovations were completed this spring and were inspected and approved by appropriate city and state authorities in May of this year. These renovations increase the accessibility, reliability and efficiency of our elevators at Inhofe.”

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