Expired elevator inspections raise concerns

An investigation of more than a dozen campus elevators showed long-passed inspection dates, raising safety concerns. // Photo courtesy of abc7.com

Next time you go to use an elevator on Tech’s campus you might want to take the stairs instead. An astounding number of elevators on campus have expired safety inspections and are, by law, unfit to operate.

Reports from students have indicated that many elevators on the Tech campus have expired elevator inspections, annual checks by the State of Georgia to make sure elevators are up to code and are operating safely. An expired inspection doesn’t mean an elevator is instantly dangerous to ride in, but it indicates that potential problems may have gone unnoticed for over a year.

A small survey of 19 elevators around campus yielded no valid inspections, corroborating the students’ statements. Of the 19, the 4 in residence halls all expired in June 2020, and the remaining 15 in shared buildings (academic buildings, dining halls, etc.) expired in Dec. 2020. Additionally, three elevators were out of order at the time of the survey.

What does an overdue inspection mean for the institution that owns the elevator? An expired inspection means the elevator’s operating certificate is incomplete, which in Georgia nets a $250 fine for a first offense and $500 more for a second offense, in line with state elevator code. A third repeated offense results in a $5,000 fine.

Tech’s Facilities Management department is responsible for the maintenance of on-campus elevators and was consulted on why many elevators are overdue for an inspection. Jessica Rose, associate director of analytics and communications for the department, shared that the previous associate director over utilities maintenance abruptly retired in November.

Tech’s Facilities Management department is responsible for the maintenance of on-campus elevators and was consulted on why many elevators are overdue for an inspection. Jessica Rose, associate director of analytics and communications for the department, shared that the previous associate director over utilities maintenance abruptly retired in November.

This may have caused a lapse in oversight of elevator maintenance recently, which could explain how elevators expiring in December slipped under the radar. Elevators expiring in June could have also had their maintenance schedules affected by the pandemic, but these elevators are still approaching nearly two years without an inspection. The interim associate director could not be reached by time of writing.

Some students commented on how they have noticed the expired inspections in the elevators they use, and how these eerily align with problems they experienced when using them.

“My elevator also hasn’t been inspected in 6 months, and it makes really loud noises every time I use it,” said one student about the elevator in the Center Street South apartments.

Another student mentioned how an elevator she was riding stopped in between floors for a minute before resuming going down. One anonymous student offered a new perspective on the issue as a part-time wheelchair user. She said, “so often [elevators on campus] are out of order or useless or in a completely ridiculous location,” and that the multiple expired inspections just add to the existing problems.

This aligns with the findings of surveying the elevators around campus: a few elevators were out of order, they were usually hard to find in the building, and some buildings did not even have an elevator. As a federally funded institution, Tech has to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires architectural access to campus buildings, but some of these buildings qualify for exceptions based on when they were constructed.

Tech is not the only university to have these issues, a quick Google search yields plenty of results from other colleges with expired inspections. Just across Atlanta Georgia State had many expired inspections just a few years ago, as reported by the Georgia State Signal. Many colleges experiencing these issues cited a backlog of inspections at the state level which caused the expirations.

Inspecting elevators is the responsibility of the state of Georgia, and this service often runs behind.

Problems with elevators consistently arise, and Tech does handle these issues internally.

Broken elevators on campus usually are fixed by Facilities Management quickly, and these problems are higher priority for Tech than pushing for an official inspection.

For all students not wanting to take the stairs, the expired inspections across campus can be worrying. For some, this represents another complication in their only means of traveling between buildings’ floors. Whatever the reason may be for the overdue inspections, one can only hope this issue can be resolved soon and without any accidents resulting from the diminished maintenance.