Thursday, January 24, 2013

Elevator Inspector Pressured to Put Unsafe Elevator Back in Service


Update: I've gotten several emails asking, and the answer is no, the source was not the inspector. It sounds like the inspector should be commended in this case. 

The Dupont street-level elevator was recently deemed unsafe by an inspector, but on the same day the inspection was submitted, the supervisor of inspectors told the inspector to put the elevator back in service without any repairs being done, according to a source and documents leaked to this blog.

According to a Metro source, this happened because Metro employs its own inspectors, making them susceptible to pressure by unscrupulous management in what many experts say represents a conflict of interest.

On July 13, six, major--or C-ticket--problems with the elevator were found by the Metro inspector. According to a Metro elevator/escalator source, C-ticket items means the "equipment as unsafe and unusable."

The first four items concern the elevator's governor, a critical piece of safety equipment that, if working, would prevent a free fall, for example.

Below the C-ticket items, there were a further 22 L-ticket items cited by the inspector. The same source says those are "limited use ticket" items for "equipment [that] can be used but needs to be corrected within 30 days."

Some of them are frightening nonetheless, including improper wiring, a fire extinguisher that needs replacing and machine seals that need replacing.

Here's the full inspection report, according to a source:

After the inspection was submitted to Metro via email, the following exchange allegedly took place between Metro's inspector and the manager of inspections (their boss) over ensuing emails leaked to this blog. Here's a screenshot.

Manager of inspections: 
Make all items minor and RTS [Return to Service] ASAP Thanks
I can't do that, it pulls thru the governor. It does not go on safety. If you want to return it you can. But I in good judgment can not make it an L ticket item.
What happened next? (Remember, this was during the closure of Dupont South, adding to the pressure to keep the elevator in service.) 

According to the source, the manager simply found an "inspector that is either influenced by management or just doesn't care" who "went over and re-inspected it, and the elevator was returned to service."

This scenario would be highly unlikely in, say, an office building, where elevators are usually inspected by an outside, independent inspector.

The source added that the original inspector "knows their stuff" and would not have returned the elevator to service given the conditions found.

I showed this to another source who was not familiar with the specific case. They said "as I've told you many times, when Metro says safety first, they mean after expediency."

Given the daily breakdowns, I imagine this kind of thing happening on a massive scale--on the escalators, elevators, buses and trains.

Are the elevators just as screwed?

Other items:
Metro and Washington Post team up to give illusion Metro is doing something
Flat screens coming to bus stops, too (Examiner)
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