Elevator safety is in the news again. Thankfully, this time it is not related to a horrible accident in which an innocent victim is injured or killed. Instead, the news relates to Mayor Bill de Blasio sparring with upstate lawmakers concerning the best way to keep New York City elevators safe. The news comes after a recent rash of stomach turning elevator fatalities. Will these proposed changes actually make elevators safer or is this more unnecessary red tape for workers to navigate?
Proposed legislation would require New York State to oversee mechanics and people responsible for the maintenance of more than 70,000 elevators in New York City buildings. The laws, if passed, would require these workers to be licensed by New York State. The oversight by New York State would be in addition to the scrutiny already in place by the Buildings Department. The proposal would also create a nine-member Board to monitor elevator safety issues and seek to prevent future tragedies. There is no denying that this is a reaction to the recent headline grabbing news of elevator fatalities – – but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad idea.
Leaders from Local One, a group of 2600 elevator constructors, strongly endorse the changes, citing the dangers associated with people who are not licensed or properly trained working on elevators. They point to this as an obvious safety issue. Others will say the proposed changes largely benefit unions because they will be in a better position to navigate the additional licensing requirements. The changes will mean money in the pockets of union elevator workers to the detriment of non-union workers, opponents charge.
Politics are playing a role in all of this. Mayor de Blasio is objecting to the changes that are being proposed in Albany. The last thing he wants is Albany dictating how New York City is run. The optics of this make it seem like the city is less safe when it comes to elevators than with previous regimes. He claims that the city’s Buildings Department already has a stringent system of oversight in place and that elevator accidents have plummeted since 2007. Statistics generated by the Mayor’s Office seem to support this assertion. The Mayor’s Office argues that any additional requirements beyond what the Buildings Department already requiresis duplicative. The additional layers will make the elevator industry more challenging than it needs to be without any tangible benefit.
Who is right here? Will these changes make things safer around here or will they just be an additional hurdle that makes living and working in New York City more expensive? Time will tell. We will continue to follow whether these proposals make it into our law books and what impact, if any, they have on our everyday lives.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm that continues to pride itself on fighting for the rights of working people. They have successfully represented injured elevator workers for decades. The law firm has more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for their clients. You may learn more about the lawyers at this firm by clicking on their website, www.BlockOToole.com. You may contact them for a free consultation at 212-736-5300.