Should New York City Require Elevator Inspectors to Be Licensed?

Your first reaction may be, “You mean right now they’re not?!” Yet it’s true. But after three elevator accidents, two of them fatal, in six months, the City Council is considering licensing elevator mechanics for the first time. Council officials say most people do not realize the mechanics that fix the elevators are not licensed. The city’s building commissioner supports the licensing measure. The council is also considering a bill to require safety devices in some residential buildings to prevent elevators from skyrocketing to the ceiling.

New York is among just 14 states that do not require that elevator technicians be licensed. Three-dozen other states already license elevator mechanics. According to the International Union of Elevator Constructors, 25 percent fewer elevator accidents occur in states where licensing and mandatory inspections are required.

There are about 60,000 elevators in the city, and about four elevator fatalities a year. In 2011 in the city there were 43 elevator accidents, compared with 105 in 2007, according to the Buildings Department.

On December 14, 2011, Suzanne Hart, a 41-year-old advertising executive, was crushed to death when the elevator in her office building lurched upward as she stepped in. An investigation by the Departments of Buildings and Investigation found that technicians failed to re-engage a safety device, which would have most likely prevented the car’s ascension, after they serviced the elevators that morning.

On March 28, 2012, an elevator repairman, Ed Bradley, was fatally electrocuted while servicing an elevator.

An opponent of a licensing requirement pointed out that the mechanics who serviced the car that killed Ms. Hart were experienced enough to have carried a license.

It seems to me that although the mechanics might have been experienced enough to have carried a license, if they had been required to undergo testing to obtain or renew a license either they would have been more careful, or perhaps a licensing requirement would have revealed that notwithstanding their experience they were not sufficiently competent.

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