Thousands Of Elevators Found Running With Expired Permits

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — With a hidden camera at South Coast Plaza we found an elevator-inspection permit that had expired two years ago in 2009. At County-USC Medical Center we found an elevator permit that had expired more than a year ago. In fact we found expired permits all around L.A.

Even though the elevators are supposed to be inspected every year, we found permits in elevators well past the deadline and there are tens of thousands of expired permits statewide. It’s a potential for a hazard.

Robert Krieger, a former state inspector, who now runs his own company, said that the annual inspections are mandated by the state to make sure the machines are meeting minimum standards for safety.

“If the equipment isn’t maintained, it starts to break down and, eventually someone gets hurt,” Krieger said.

Or just stuck, like what happened to quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Matt Lienart in a USC elevator in April.

Cal/OSHA is in charge of making sure that 92,000 elevators are working properly in California. The City of Los Angeles inspects its own elevators — about 25,000 of them.

But we found that both agencies have fallen behind, claiming they are understaffed. Critics claim inspectors are doing a poor job, leading to problems.

“I was propelled forward and landed on my left forehead on a cement floor,” said Joyce Gorman of Yorba Linda, describing an incident in 2008 that left her with two black eyes and broken bones.

Gorman was on her daily commute to her nursing job at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital when she got into an elevator at the MTA subway stop at Vermont and Sunset.

“It lurched up. And it lurched up with a lot of force,” Gorman recalled.

The elevator jerked up and down. When it stopped the door opened, but she did not know that it was not even with the ground. When Gorman stepped out, she fell forward hitting the pavement.

“The eye bones around the eye, they couldn’t put them back together, I have a metal mesh in my eye keeping my eye in place,” she said.

Gorman sued the elevator repair company.

At the time the elevator permit had been up to date, but her attorney said that OSHA could never produce any documentation to back up the inspection.

David Goldstein: “What does that tell you about the whole inspection process?”

“It’s poor. It’s terrible. And it hurts people like it did in this case,” Gorman said who settled out of court.

Now three years later, we checked that same elevator — the permit had expired March 18, 2010.

We obtained the state’s database of elevator inspections and found that out of almost 92,000 elevators statewide, more than 28,000, nearly one-third, have expired permits — some expired for more than two years ago.

Dean Fryer with Cal/OSHA claimed that they are only about six-months behind, but we told him what we found with our undercover cameras.

“OK, well clearly then there is an issue there that has to be addressed,” Fryer said.

Cal/OSHA said they only have 67 elevator inspectors statewide and with a current hiring freeze, they said that it is hard to catch up.

“They need to do a better job is what they need to do,” said California Assemblyman Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga.

Morrell is the Vice Chair of the state committee that oversees OSHA. He said it is unacceptable.

“It appears they’re not being as efficient and effective with taxpayer money and the safety of citizens as they should be,” Morrell said.

He said he is pushing to get the inspections up to date.

State officials said passengers should not be alarmed if they are riding in an elevator with an expired permit. But if you want to play safe, there’s always the stairs.

More from David Goldstein
  • Ron

    Simple solution. Yank the inspections from L.A. and have Cal/OSHA do them. Like so many other L.A. government responsibilities, these are NOT handled properly. These are peoples lives that are in danger.

    Or even better, give the inspection jobs to a private company. It will be done twice as fast, for half the price. And don’t put any UNION requirements in the contract, if you want the job done right.

    • M.E.Cooley


    • Goldstein

      Yea thats what we need elevator inspections being done twice as fast! For your information we have had a similar problem with the mortgage banks recently. Does ROBO SIGNING ring any bells?

      • Goldstein

        Hey They Sould Hire M.E. COOLEY he doesnt even have to see the elevator just the paperwork!!!!

      • Duh!

        @Goldstein – Hmm… we have a problem with mortgages causing people to fall down and get hurt when the mortgage does not operate correctly? WOW!!!!

        I’ll explain what Ron said since you have a comprehension problem.

        Elevator inspections will be done twice as fast because there will be enough staff to do the inspections. So instead of it taking two or three years between inspections, it will only take the requisite one year to have an inspection performed. This is the frequency of inspection and not the act of inspecting the elevator (although that could also hypothetically go faster if two inspectors are assigned to inspect an elevator instead of just one).

      • goldstein

        M.E. Cooley Stick to the home inspection buisness. You obviously have no buisness inspecting an elevator or escalator, stick to inspecting termite damaged wood. Having two inspectors on one elevator is not very efficient, you can only inspect one floor at a time unless one guy swings down a rope while the other is on the elevator. If you wind up inspecting elevators you should up your life insurance because i would expect to find you smashed between the counterweight and elevator cab. Leave it to the professionals!!! Now get in the attic and chech for leaks in the air ducting!! R.I.P M.E. COOLEY let me get your tombstone ready!!!!!!!!!

    • Randy Arnott

      The Elevator inspectors are responsible for inspecting the elevators once a year.
      The elevator companies are responsible for MAINTAINING the elevators.
      Building owners are responsible for having the elevators inspected anually paying for and displaying a current permit,and maintained as per regulations in effect per date of installation or modernizations.
      should the elevators be running unsafely the building managment must be notified,Then They should call the elevator maintenance company on record who shall repair or remove the elevator from service.
      Many times modernizations are done without permits and caught by the inspectors upon thier anual inspections. Other times the maintenance companies just do a drive by at a lower price and never service the elevators because the buiding owners want to save a buck!
      I have been an Elevator Mechanic for over 25 years and many of our inspectors have worked right along side me.They have integrity and want nothing more than for each elevator to meet the safety requirements for all.
      Private inspectors are not the answer, as the costs for all thier additional expenses far exceed the State fees,and each new inspector would not be familiar with the building being inspected which would require additional investigation as to what was originally there and what was added.Furthermore the state would then not recieve any revenue.
      here is some math 90,000 elevators per osha,67 inspectors
      Remove weekends ,holidays ,vacation time ,FURLOUGH days travel time between locations ,and the inspectors are required to inspect over 7 per day.
      this can not be done as some highrise buildings with 30 plus floors take a day per elevator

  • M.E.Cooley

    Hire local inspection companies to inspect permits.

  • Thousands Of Elevators Found Running With Expired Permits | Los Angeles for Me

    […] Even though elevators are supposed to be inspected every year, we found permits in elevators well past the deadline — tens of thousands of expired permits statewide. It’s a potential for a hazard. More from:… […]

  • G.W.

    this story is not completely accurate. i work in facility services on a 100 acre site that has 9 elevators. We see the cal state inspectors EVERY YEAR. We spend tons of money to make sure our equipment is in perfect condtion. While we are inspected once a year the permits are always late, always. sometimes more that a year. The biggest problems with elevators are with the companies that do the up keep on the elevators. Most companies have service contracts. A service contract is similar to HMO’s for health care. There goal is to do as little as possible to keep the elevators running. We have switched service companies 3 times in 6 years. We fired one company because of an elevator entrapment that took place during X-mas. The on call service tech decided to stop for breakfast before coming to our site. After firing that company we had to spend more than 100 thousand dollars to up grade and repair damaged equipment before another comnpany would sign a new service contract. Your story should be on those companies. The cal state inspectors all have worked for a service company before getting the state job. There is so much more to your story that you have neglected.

    • Duh!

      Good information GW. Thanks

      • Randy

        GW. You are absolutly correct!! Want the real story here?????
        Ask Mr. Kreiger why he lost his job as aState inspector in Santa Barbara,CA

  • Kris

    I don’t know how long it actually takes to inspect an elevator but is anyone else bothered by the fact that the elevators that were done took just over 4 hours each to inspect? That includes travel time, assuming the inspectors work 40 hours a week, 236 days a year. I have no way to figure out the time it takes to travel from elevator to elevator. I’m betting they get caught up in traffic like everyone else.

    I’d be even more concerned if they were all done with so few inspectors as it would have each one inspecting just about 6 elevators a day. That would only give them around 1 hour and 40 minutes per elevator to travel to and inspect each one.

    I’m not finger pointing at the inspectors. It doesn’t matter if they’re the best inspectors walking, there are just too many elevators for that few employees to efficiently or effectively inspect.

    Scary stuff.

  • G.W.

    from my experience with the inspectors is, they schedule buildings that are close in proximity. The amount of time would depend on how many floors and what type of equipment. Our site has 9 elevators. We have 6 elevators in our main building and has 6 floors. I have watched the inspector bring the car to the top, then ride the cars on top, outside, to inspect the cables and various guides and wheels. The biggest problem is poor up keep and the fact that there are no suprise inspections. Most companies know when the inspector is due to visit. The service companies have time to make repairs before the inspectors arrive.
    The state inspectors will tell you they need more bodies. The problem is there are not that many qualified techs that want the cal state inspector jobs. And now with budget short falls it will be impossible to hire more staff.

  • Mel Gibson

    Why is this even a story. Elevator travel is probably the safest mode of transportation there is. Take the stairs if you are afraid. Maybe all you guys wouldn’t be so fat.

    Lazy people

    • M.E.Cooley

      LOL!!!!!!!! Tell them Mel!!!!!

  • Sarah

    Our incompetant Management and maintenance has had a sticker slapped onto the elevators for over 2 months now, stating ‘inspection pending’. Old apt. complex in Marina Del Rey-built in the early 70’s. There are always problems with the elevators……and to the knucklehead that called everyone ‘lazy’–you are a total IDIOT. Some people have disabilities, are in wheelchairs, parents have strollers, people have carts of laundry, etc….stairs are out of the question. Well, we can break your legs and make you climb 5 flights, ya lazy bugger.

  • Thousands Of Elevators Found Running With Expired Permits | blog

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  • ginny

    Althought I usually support the investigations done by the station, this one needed much more internal investigation before releasing. If there are approx. 92,000 elevators in the state, and 67 inspectors then that is approx. 1373 elevators per inspector/year. If it takes approx. 3 hours to properly inspect each elevator (picked a number that sounded reasonable), then we are looking at a total of about 4119 hours a year for each inspector to do their share of the workload. The average person works approx.1773 hours a year. How can 67 inspectors be held responsible for covering the numbers being reported?

    Are the inspectors covering large regional areas that require long drive times between locations?
    Just what is the average time to do a proper inspection?
    Do these same people also inspect escalators, as is the case in many states?

    • Goldstein

      Yes escalators must be inspected once a year as for the average time i am not sure. It probably depends on how many landings and the type of elevator, traction, hydraulic, handicap lift or moving walk.

      • ginny

        Goldstein, I know that escalators also have to be inspected yearly, my question was… are the same inspectors also doing those inspections along with their elevator checks? Many states require the same inspectors to also do escalators. It would be interesting to know. In addition, how about checking on the total number of escalators in the state and how many are also out of compliance, etc. I’m more worried about the state of elevators since they have so many ways a person could be injured; especialy children.

      • goldstein

        Yes the same inspectors inspect both elevators and escalators. This is also the same with the State inspectors. I have no idea how many units are out of compliance. I know there a lot and the inspectors are behind on there annual inspections. It all comes down to cut backs with the state State and City. Most Elevator related injuries are due to innacurate floor leveling (trips and falls) and people getting hit by the doors which only have a 30ft pounds of force when closing. There have been very very few cases of elevator fatalities to a member of the public, usually it is an Elevator Mechanic. All I ever see is trips and falls. A child is more likely to be injured on an escalator due to horsing around.

      • M.E.Cooley

        Very good Goldstein, looks like you went to college also. Or maybe not!

    • Randy

      Ginny,some inspectors are sent to Santa Barbara in the Am and then to Beverly hills to cover an accident investigation in the afternoon.
      The paperwork is endless and yes they inspect elevators ,escalators,dumbwaiters,wheelchair lifts,moving walks,material lifts,chairlifts,and many other conveyances.
      Sometimes thier time is spent looking for the responsible building owners or the new set of elevator keys that dont exist and it is the responsibility of the inspector to get them from???? The State doesnt give them any.
      And have you ever tried to gain entry into a secured prperty? This too they face

  • Jim Gates

    i was at a doctors office yesterday and theirs expired dec 2010

  • Goldstein

    Just last year the Mayor and City council furloughed every LA City Elevator Inspector every Friday. The problem is not with the inspectors it is with the politicians. Just another case of the city cutting back in all the wrong areas.

  • Buckshot

    There is so much more to the story I work in the elevator industry , there are inspectors out there who yes might not do there job correctly bit there are good inspectors out there who take there time and do a thorough job. There are bigger fish to fry regarding jobs not getting done if you want you can blame every one involved but alot of us take are jobs very serious and would never let an unsafe unit run most customers are so cheap they don’t want to put a dollar into there bldgs . It’s a constant battle in every trade for safety and reliabilty with any work done to anything people don’t understand how much use elevators and escalators get used they put more miles down than any-car on the road and statistically are very reliable compared to use

  • Astonished

    Of course there aren’t enough inspectors to inspect all the elevators that are operating today, and it will only get worse with each new multistory building that is completed! The Inspectors aren’t lazy, their being worked into the ground! But I do love the response Morrell gave to Goldstein: “It appears they’re not being as efficient and effective with taxpayer money and the safety of citizens as they should be,” Nothing like feeding the reporter the answer he wants! It wouldn’t have made the show if Morrell had spoken the truth!

  • Paul D

    Has anyone, in their entire life, ever actually known or even heard of anyone being injured in an elevator accident?

    • goldstein

      Exprect to hear about one M.E. Cooley is going from inspecting houses to Elevators!!! read above post

      • goldstein

        M.E. Cooley I guarantee I make twice what you do. You can wipe your butt with your bachelor degree. Be sure you write up that termite damage and that turd lodged in the plumbing on that pathetic silly home inspection. Let me see any body can inspect a house prior to sale, Duh the kitchen sink is leaking, and the outlet in the bathroom isn’t a gfi. Please that’s all you can do with your bachelor degree. Lol

      • M.E.Cooley

        I dont see your bachelor degree, you can see mine at Need a jod? LOL!!!!!!!

      • M.E.Cooley

        Your just Jealous…LOL!!!! NATION WIDE BABY!!!! NATION WIDE!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!! Need a job?

  • Fred

    The statements made by California assemblyman Mike Morrell indicate that he is part of the problem and not the solution. Just once, when a politician makes a statement like, “it appears they’re not being as efficient and effective with taxpayer money and the safety of citizens as they should be”, can a “reporter” who is really interested in the facts say, “How so?” If this politician can identify inefficiencies in the work process of the inspection agencies I assume he has forwarded his recommendations to the appropriate agencies so they can make improvements. If the “reporter” is interviewing a politician who claims to have oversight over one of the agencies under the microscope, you would think the follow up question might be “what have you identified as the problem and what have you proposed to correct it”. It seems it may be the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Mr. Morrell that should have been the focus of the “report”. Politicians, from the last group to the current group, have maintained hiring freezes across the board. This is a lazy political cop out which allows them to sit for tea, crumpets and campaigning while you and I and every business owner have to actually work, mulling over fact and figures to determine where it is appropriate to cut expenses or personnel or where it is prudent to add expenses or personnel in order to function properly, and remain solvent.
    The state agency that inspects elevators draws no money from the state’s general fund. The agency funds itself through fixed inspections fees. They should not only be allowed to maintain sufficient numbers of qualified inspectors to complete their annual inspections in a timely manner, they should be required to. There is no credible excuse, economic or otherwise for preventing this by imposing lazy, sweeping edicts, such as hiring freezes or furloughs on agencies which have no impact on the state’s general budget.
    As for private inspections, one only has to look at the state of Florida for the answer. When Florida went from state inspections to private inspections, the number of deficiencies which were identified dropped significantly. This is not because elevator companies decided to do better maintenance. This is because a private inspector has an economic incentive to subvert public safety and write as few deficiencies as possible to ensure he will be asked back for the following years inspections. It’s just economics. State or city inspectors have the luxury of concentrating on public safety. It is not difficult to figure out that if you want the permits to be current, it can only happen by employing qualified inspectors, not lazy bloviating politicians.
    The “report” fails to inform you that State and City inspectors are responsible for many other activities besides annual inspections. They are responsible for putting all new elevators through testing before allowing the public to ride. This can sometimes take days to do properly for each new elevator, escalator, dumbwaiter, and several other devices they are responsible for. The inspectors are responsible to do the same every time one of these devices is modernized. They are responsible for investigating accidents when they occur, which can take days. They are responsible for doing follow up inspections to assure that the requirements which were written have been properly corrected. They are responsible to remove from service any device which is hazardous or non-compliant with California or City of LA code. This is a “short list” of the inspectors’ duties.
    Tabloid “journalism” disguised as news has never served the public well. It allows the public to pretend that they are well informed.

    • Steve

      This guy knows what he’s talking about…

    • Goldstein

      BRAVO FRED!!! You post nailed it.

  • Pete Kaplan

    One problem with the City of LA Elevator Dept. is that they are to closely tied to the politicians in City Hall. I’ve heard over and over again how some inspector was going to shut down an elevator because it wasn’t safe or not in compliance and before he left the building he got a call from Pete Callas telling him to turn the elevator back on and get out of that building.

  • Robert L Krieger


    Your comment “The state agency that inspects elevators draws no money from the state’s general fund. The agency funds itself through fixed inspections fees.” is not quite correct.

    If they got their inspection fees, they would be flush with people. (The state agency could not even purchase paper for their fax machines.) If the public cared, a full investigation into the facts would occur.

    Just because an elevator has not been inspected, does not make it inherently unsafe. Not properly servicing elevators, and not actually doing the required items on inspection reports is what puts the public at risk. Maybe a follow up to the inspection reports that were reported as being complete to these agencies and verification as to if they were really completed should be done.

    It is a complicated formula that should also include the property owners and politicians.

    What can be done and was missing from the news story is to support the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation.

    We can make a difference. The lowest hanging fruit is educating the public, soliciting their interest and support.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Robert L Krieger Jr.

    • Pete Kaplan

      Mr Krieger,
      IMO one of the biggest problems is people don’t read signs or watch where they’re going before they get in an elevator or ride an escalator. How does your organization teach people to simply pay attention?

  • Susie Smith

    Hey about checking the expired permits on our 2 poorly maintained, erratic elevators at 240 E Palm Ave., Burbank, CA 91502?

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