Dwight Takamine
Dwight Takamine

BY JIM DOOLEY – To address a “crisis” in backlogged elevator safety inspections, the state plans to increase inspection fees to hire new, better-paid inspectors from the private sector, state Labor and Industrial Relations Department Director Dwight Takamine said today.

Some 4,000 elevators around the state are overdue for safety inspections and Takamine said the state plans to address the situation by setting up a special fund initially financed with a $1 million loan.

That money will be used to hire and train six new inspectors from the private sector, where salaries generally run twice as high as in government work, Takamine said.

Salaries for state inspectors are in the range of $40,000, said Takamine.

“$45,000 might be on the high side,” he said, adding that private workers receive “almost double” that.

Legislation proposing increased inspection fees and establishment of the special fund will be introduced by the administration next week, he said.

He did not discuss the proposed new fee schedule but said he has discussed the matter with private property owners and other affected parties who initially appear amenable to the increases.

Inspection fees have not been raised for 13 years.

There hasn’t been an elevator-related fatality here since 1992 and virtually all public and private elevator systems are serviced by repair and maintenance companies.

But the state inspections are meant to assure the safety of public and private elevator cars and are mandated by state law.

The inability of the state to perform inspections in new buildings can halt construction projects, adding economic dislocation to safety concerns, Takamine said.

Even if the state plan is adopted, hiring and certification of new inspectors couldn’t begin begin until mid-year, Takamine added.

Then it could take another “six months or so” before new inspectors “are actually out in the field to start doing the additional inspections.”

 

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com