January 8, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Advocates for a bill subjecting elevator mechanics to special training and licensing are confident they finally have enough support to successfully push the measure through the State Legislature.
The Elevator Safety Act has repeatedly stalled in the Senate, but this time around the measure has some 40 sponsors, and Governor Cuomo says he’s waiting to sign the measure into law.
Locally, the deBlasio administration opposes the effort, saying that the City of New York already does a good job of overseeing the elevator industry and that new requirements would just add another layer of bureaucracy.
Several horrific elevator accidents over the last several months, however, have increased calls for improved safety.
On Friday, supporters of the Elevator Safety Act gathered outside 131 Broome Street in Lower Manhattan, scene of the tragic elevator death of 25-year-old Stephen Hewitt-Brown on New Year’s Eve.
“When you get over 32 co-sponsors on a bill, and you have a majority sponsor, for better or worse in Albany, that’s a pretty good path to passage — normally, unless, for some reason, the leadership wants to block it,” State Senator Daniel Squadron [D-26th District] told LaborPress. “I do think this is a classic case where we know how to solve the problems in Albany, which is with public focus and attention.”
The State Assembly has passed the Elevator Safety Act four times since 2012, and each time, it has died in the Republican-controlled State Senate.
Thirty-five states around the nation require licensing for elevator mechanics — New York is not among them.
“You can never undue a tragedy, and you can never say for sure what would have prevented a tragedy after the fact,” Squadron said. “But we know that standards for elevator workers increase safety. We know that having consistent statewide standards increases predictability.”
If the Elevator Safety Act does pass this time around, it will create a new Elevator Safety Commission, in addition to requiring licensed elevator mechanics participate in approved training programs.
Elevator mechanics would also be compelled to take part in continuing education courses as a condition of yearly license renewals.
“Technology in the elevator industry, changes rapidly,” I.U.E.C., Local 1 Organizer Mike Halpin said. “It’s a highly technical field. In New York State, we work on elevators as old as 100 years old, and others that are brand new. You’ve got to be well-versed in all of those different technologies.”
Halpin talked about the importance of the Elevator Safety Act during the latest episode of the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast airing this Sunday at noon on WWRL 1600 AM, and streaming online at www.lainvasora.com.
Frank Spotorno, president of Parkline Elevator Inspectors, Inc. — a Local 1 signatory — complained that too many companies are “hiring elevator mechanics that are coming off the street and who are not fully trained through an apprentice course.”
Elevator Safety Act supporters say existing rules regulating safety are, indeed, too vague and invite calamity. The new measure, they insist, will change that.
“If your child gets stuck in an elevator, you now know that there is a trained professional going to get your child out of that elevator,” Halpin said.
Accidents may still occur, Squadron added, “But one thing we would know for sure when a tragedy occurred, it wasn’t because you had an elevator worker who hadn’t gotten the training they need to do the best possible job.”