Expired elevator inspection permits are not technically expired

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Isaiah David, physical therapy major (left), and Brian Garcia, fire tech emergency major (right), get off the elevator in Parking Lot C on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Rosemary Montalvo/The Union

The Union visited 40 student-accessible elevators at El Camino College on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and found that 38 of them displayed permits that indicated they were expired.

Robert Brobst, assistant director of the ECC Facilities and Planning Department, told The Union that the permits displayed in the elevators do not expire on the expiration dates posted, but rather they are still active until an inspector from the California Department of Industrial Relations performs an inspection of the elevator.

After an inspection is performed, irregularities or mechanical issues are recorded and sent to the elevator manufacturer. Once the company fixes any issues, a state inspector returns and permits the elevator for service for one year from the inspection date, Brobst said.

An inspection is required annually after the elevator is first installed, when any alteration work is performed and when an elevator has been reactivated after being taken out of service for an extended period of time, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations (CDIR) website.

However, the California Department of Industrial Relations is under-staffed with inspectors, which leads to delays in re-permitting elevators, Brobst said.

The Union reached out to the CDIR Division of Occupational Safety and Health Elevator Unit Headquarters but was told that it could not make an immediate comment over the phone. The Union was also told to submit its questions in writing through the CDIR website for an official response from the division.

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Gabriela Hernandez, 32, psychology major passes through the new Student Services Building. She is one of many students who depend on elevators to get around campus. Rosemary Montalvo/The Union

Renewals for all elevator permits that are currently expired have been filed with the state, Brobst said.

According to California Labor Code, Section 7302, any person or establishment that has requested a “renewal of a permit” cannot be prosecuted for having an expired permit “if the request has not been acted upon by the state.

Under California Labor Code Section 7302, ECC is not able to be punished until a state inspector performs their inspection of the elevators in question, Brobst said.

ECC students with disabilities are at a greater risk of being trapped during the event of a mechanical or electrical issue in an elevator because of how often they use them.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that requires establishments to have accessible equipment for people with disabilities, “all equipment and features that enable people with disabilities to access goods and services must be maintained in good working order.”

Gabriela Hernandez, 32, psychology major, and student who uses a wheelchair said of the expired permits, “For me [it’s] frustrating because, I’m afraid of being in closed areas, so imagine if one of my unlucky days, that could be, not good [for me],”

With recent elevator entrapments during the spring 2018 and fall 2019 semesters, the topic of student and faculty safety has been brought into question. A power outage earlier in the fall 2019 semester led to one entrapment in the Schauerman Library.

Students without mobility issues are also affected by riding in elevators that may indicate an expired permit.

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The expired permit inside of the elevator on the west side of the Humanities Building is displayed on the lower right hand corner. Rosemary Montalvo/The Union

Isabella Villatoro, 21, international student from Guatemala, business administration major told The Union that she has claustrophobia and that the elevators already make her uneasy on a normal day.

“Well, I’m mostly claustrophobic, so, if I know that these elevators are not certified that means that maybe they can fail in one point and that scares me a lot,” Villatoro said. “I would be dying there, inside.”

“I mostly use the elevators with her [Villatoro] and, like, the little minutes I’m in there with her she gets really excited, so, one day if she gets stuck on one of those, I don’t want to be there to see it.” Luís Alberto Abreu, an international student from Brazil said. “Just think about being late, for some teachers here at El Camino, you get an absence, so if you get stuck on an elevator, you couldn’t have any more absences, and now you get another one because of the elevator.”

Editor’s Note: A clarification on sourcing was made on Monday, Dec. 16 at 12:42 p.m.