CWA local criticizes cross-training of elevator, amusement ride inspectors

TRENTON – A union opposes changes the state made regarding inspections of elevators and amusement park rides.

CWA Local 1039 wants to draw legislative and public attention to the changes, which the union says could represent a threat to public safety. The Department of Community Affairs strongly denied there would be any risk to safety.

Traditionally, elevators and amusement park rides are inspected by separate workers. Those workers have separate standards and timelines to meet before being licensed.

The Department of Community Affairs wants amusement park ride inspectors to be trained to perform six-month inspections of elevators, and for elevator inspectors to perform operational inspections of carnival rides.

“They want to save some money by not investing in qualified individuals,” said Lionel Leach, president of Local 1039.

The regulation changes will allow the amusement park ride inspectors to take a 90-hour elevator inspectors course, which the state says will train them to do what are referred to as the semiannual inspections, which DCA at one point in the regulations proposal called “cursory, visual.” (In addition, there is an annual inspection involving tests of elevator features.)

The elevator inspectors dispute that description of the six-month inspection. 

In addition, it takes seven years to obtain an elevator inspectors license, and the union says a 90-hour course cannot make up for the on-the-job experience an inspector accumulates during that time.

Conversely, the union says that its elevator inspectors can’t be expected to walk a fairgrounds and conduct the kind of careful inspection that can be given by an amusement park ride inspector who has accumulated the three to five years that job takes before a license is issued.

“This takes years and years of experience to do,” Leach said.  He said they were rebuffed by DCA when they tried to discuss their concerns with the state department.

“You are making some major changes to regulations that can really cause detriment and harm to not only our members, but to the public in general,’’ he said.

He said they are trying to educate the public and lawmakers about what is occurring, and it is possible that at some point they may seek legislation to address the issue.

In New Jersey, there are approximately 20 such workers inspecting some 17,000 elevator devices, which include escalators and some related conveyances. There are approximately another 6,000 such devices not inspected by the state but by third-party inspection companies, the CWA said.

But DCA categorically denied there would be any threat to public safety, and said that cross-trained inspectors will be limited in inspections that they can perform.

“Specifically, this rule allows those holding an amusement ride inspector license to perform only six-month elevator inspections. These six-month inspections are akin to the mechanical inspections that are performed on amusement rides.

“In both cases, the inspection is a comprehensive examination of the components of the machinery to ensure that the equipment is functioning properly and has not been tampered with and also that the machine’s components do not show signs of excessive or abnormal wear,” DCA said in its regulations adoptions notice.

“Similarly, elevator inspectors are limited to performing only operational inspections on amusement rides. These inspections, as defined in the rules, include ‘observation of the ride operating when the operator has not been informed of the inspector’s presence and a review of the operator training records and information provided to the owner both verbally and in writing concerning the results of the inspection.’

“The primary purpose of the amusement ride operational inspection is to ensure that the ride is being operated properly. The elevator inspectors’ knowledge of both the operation of and dangers associated with the improper operation of elevators, in particular, and machinery operation, more generally, make them particularly well-suited to performing this type of inspection.”

One elevator inspector, who has decades of experience and did not want to be identified by name, said that it would be one thing if the state wanted to phase in this change over a period of years to properly cross-train the inspectors, but he maintained that a 90-hour course cannot make up for the lack of hands-on experience.

“There are cables and pulleys,’’ he said, “where you will miss some fingers if you put them on the wrong spot.

“Through experience you might hear a bearing going out and you shut it down until it’s repaired.”

Still, DCA said that “Because of the limited scope of the inspections and because the inspectors’ background, knowledge, and experience are appropriate for performing these inspections, the Department believes that the cross-trained inspectors do not need to have exactly the same qualifications as elevator or amusement ride inspectors who perform more extensive inspections.”

CWA local criticizes cross-training of elevator, amusement ride inspectors