LADBS’ mission is to protect the lives and safety of City residents and visitors, while enhancing housing, economic prosperity, job creation, and the quality of life of all Angelenos. To meet this mission, LADBS helps to ensure buildings and structures adhere to requirements set forth in the City’s Building Regulations, found in Chapter IX of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC). As stated in the LAMC, the purpose of those regulations is “to safeguard life, limb, health, property and public welfare by regulating and controlling the design, construction, quality of materials, use and occupancy, location and maintenance of all buildings and structures erected or to be erected within the city.”
Three LADBS bureaus engage directly with the public, primarily at three stages of a building’s existence: 1) Permit and Engineering Bureau (before construction); 2) Inspection Bureau (during and after construction); and, 3) Code Enforcement Bureau (after construction).
One important role LADBS fills is to ensure elevators and related conveyances comply with local and State elevator codes; regulations that are in place to address issues of rider safety. The City began inspecting elevators in 1898, becoming the first government entity within the State to have a formal Elevator Inspection Program. In 1919, the State also began to regulate and conduct elevator inspections in California. Currently, State elevator inspectors, LADBS elevator inspectors, and a small number of insurance inspectors are the only inspectors authorized to conduct elevator inspections in California.
Elevators and related conveyances (e.g., escalators, moving walks, dumbwaiters; collectively referred to as “elevators” in this report), are inspected as part of LADBS’ Elevator Inspection Program. The Elevator Inspection Program is organizationally within the Inspection Bureau; however, it also has code enforcement responsibilities. LADBS’ 24 elevator inspectors conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the City’s LAMC “Elevator Code” (Chapter IX, Article 2) as well as the State’s Code of Regulations, the State’s Labor Code, and standards established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
LADBS issues a Certificate of Inspection and Permit to Operate an Elevator, which is valid for one year; thus, with few exceptions, elevators within the City require an annual re- inspection.7 LADBS also inspects new elevator installations and modernizations of existing elevators, and investigates elevator safety complaints and all reported accidents with injuries.8
7 Per LAMC Chapter IX, Article 2, Section 92.0126 (a), LADBS “shall cause to be inspected and tested once every year all elevator equipment or related devices governed by this Code.” LADBS inspects all public elevators located in the City except those located in a Los Angeles County, State, or federal facility. For private residences, inspections are only required for elevator installations and modernizations.
Fees for elevator inspections help to recover the costs of the Elevator Inspection Program. Elevator installation and modernization inspection fee invoices are sent to elevator companies who obtained the related permit for the work. Annual re-inspection fee invoices are sent to property owners or property management companies. During a three-year period ended June 30, 2017, LADBS collected $13.4 million in elevator inspection fees.
Elevator Inspection Workload
LADBS has three Regional Offices serving the City of Los Angeles. A senior elevator inspector manages each Regional Office and reports to a principal and chief elevator inspector. LADBS’ 24 elevator inspectors (including senior elevator inspectors) oversee 23,700 permitted conveyances, with 20,406 (86%) being either hydraulic or cabled elevators.9 The following chart includes a breakdown of the 23,700 “elevators” by type of conveyance.
LADBS elevator inspectors’ primary workload involves completing annual re-inspections; however, as previously stated, they must also inspect newly installed elevators, modernizations, and respond to elevator safety complaints received by LADBS. Further, when an elevator accident with injuries occurs, inspectors conduct an accident investigation.
8 Elevator accidents involving the death of an organization’s employee are also required to be reported to Cal/OSHA. Cal/OSHA completes those investigations.
9 As of June 23, 2017, of the 23,700 elevators, 21,578 (91%) elevators were “active,” 797 (3%) were “unknown,” 713 (3%) were “out of service,” 311 (2%) were “sealed,” and 301 (1%) were “landed.” Regardless of the classification, LADBS continues to inspect these elevators annually.
During 2015 and 2016, LADBS elevator inspectors conducted more than 53,000 site visits related to elevator inspections. The figures below include instances of multiple returns to complete an inspection.
For accident visits, inspectors complete an accident investigation report if injuries are involved. Based upon LADBS’ records, there were 1,442 elevator accident investigation reports completed by its inspectors from 2007 through 2016 (averaging 144 reports per year during the 10-year timeframe).
The Controller’s Performance Audit of LADBS’ Inspection and Code Enforcement Activities (issued July 10, 2006) noted a backlog of approximately 4,400 (21%) out of 21,000 required re-inspections of elevators, escalators, and other moving conveyances. This meant that the re-inspection cycle had stretched to 15 months.
The Controller’s Office subsequently conducted a Follow-Up Audit (issued January 7, 2010) and noted that LADBS had reduced the backlog down to 445 overdue re-inspections as of 2009. At that time, the re-inspection cycle fell to just over the 12 months required by the State and the LAMC.10
Both the original and follow-up audits also indicated that LADBS did not have adequate processes to ensure property owners resolved OTCs in a timely manner.
10 As of October 2017, the re-inspection cycle time has increased to 14 months. See the Fiscal Oversight Section.