Elevators Running With Expired Permits

Students, staff and faculty alike may be alarmed to discover that most of the elevators at UC Irvine are operating with expired permits. UCI officials, however, assure the community that these elevators pose no safety risk.
Elevators from the Science Library to the Administration Building, and almost everywhere in between, are operating with expired permits, some of which have been expired for more than a year.
No elevator in California is permitted to operate without meeting the requirements of the California Labor Code Section 7301, which states, ‘Operation of a conveyance without a permit or failure to post the permit conspicuously shall constitute cause for the division to prohibit use of the conveyance.’
All of UCI’s elevators containing expired permits are currently pending re-inspection by the state.
According to Paul Howland, director of plant operations for UCI’s Facilities Management, the state keeps a computerized database of all elevator permits issued, and is automatically notified when permits expire. The state then arranges routine elevator inspections after they are notified about permit expirations.
Under the California Labor Code, operation of an elevator without a valid permit is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to 10 days for each day of operation.
However, if a computer-generated request has been made for inspection and the inspection has not yet been conducted by the state, the owner of the elevator is not held responsible for any problems that arise from an elevator’s performance.
Many of the permits on campus expired during the summer. Howland said that the request for renewal of the permits has been made by UCI, but many inspections have yet to be completed because of a lack of state inspectors.
‘They can only respond to as many elevators as they have resources,’ Howland said.
Howland believes that the shortage of manpower in the state inspection office can be attributed to state budget problems.
‘The budget cuts have impacted that office pretty badly,’ Howland said.
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Division of Occupational Safety, inspections of the elevators at UCI occurred throughout October and into the first week of November, already months after many of the permits expired. However, inspections were unexpectedly delayed further.
Howland explained, ‘The state elevator inspector who [inspects elevators at UCI] had a death in the family, so he went back to the Philippines.’
Howland said that the delay is not hazardous and poses no risks to people who use the elevators.
‘There’s no risk from being behind schedule,’ Howland said. ‘There isn’t any danger or risk from the inspector not being here for the inspection.’
Howland added that if the elevators did pose a risk, he ‘would be taking the stairs all the time,’ which he does not do.
Two mechanics from UCI’s main elevator contractor, KONE, are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to perform preventative work on the elevators. According to Howland, these two KONE mechanics actually carry most of the burden for the performance of the elevators. The mechanics perform most of the maintenance in between the annual inspections to ensure that the elevators are operating properly. The state inspectors simply provide an additional safety net for the on-campus KONE mechanics.
‘The [state] inspectors are just another set of eyes looking at the elevators,’ Howland said.
By press time, representatives from KONE could not be reached for comment.
If elevator users experience problems, they may contact the KONE mechanics by calling them at (949) 824-5444.