But hiring new inspectors will be difficult because the starting salary of a state inspector is $42,000, while their counterparts in the private sector are paid $50 per hour and earn as much as $110,00 annually before overtime.
So officials from the state Department of Labor say they will probably ask the Legislature in January to approve steep new increases in elevator inspection and permit fees to pay for sharp increases in the compensation of inspectors.
That testimony was delivered by Labor Department Director Dwight Takamine and Jennifer Shishido, manager of the boiler/elevator inspection office.
A similar backlog of safety inspections of boilers has also built up around the state and the same pay disparity applies, said Keith Rudolph, chief boiler inspector.
“I could go out in private industry tomorrow and get a $30,000 raise,” Rudolph told members of the state House Committee on Labor and Public Employment.
Committee chairman Rep. Karl Rhoads, D-28th (Palama, Downtown, Chinatown, Sheridan) congratulated Rudolph on his commitment to public service.
Various speakers told the committee that the backlog numbers are not a cause for alarm.
Elevators and boilers around the state are regularly serviced and maintained by their owners and there has not been an elevator-related fatality here since 1992.
But Takamine told the committee the Abercrombie administration is committed to clearing the inspection backlog.
“Public safety is a top priority,” he said.
The backlog can have adverse economic effects when equipment is shut down, or new equipment can’t be put in operation, because of delays in permitting and inspections, witnesses said.
The department is working with private industry and with the public employees labor union to impose new fees which will flow into a special fund that will increase salaries for state inspectors, witnesses told the committee.
The department is also exploring the possibility of turning over inspections to private third parties, but that solution would require the state to pay the higher prevailing wages in the private sector, witnesses said.