A proposal to create a statewide elevator inspection system for Louisiana started advancing Wednesday in the Legislature, winning support from the Senate Commerce Committee.
Louisiana doesn’t require regular safety inspections of elevators, and while some municipalities have set their own regulations, most parishes are without rules for annual checkups to make sure elevators and escalators are operating properly.
State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-New Orleans, is sponsoring Senate Bill 602 to establish the statewide inspection system, which is supported by elevator manufacturers.
“The only reason I’m here is about the safety of the citizens in this state,” Nevers said.
The committee advanced the proposal without objection, though some senators questioned the price tag of creating a statewide system and the need for it. Nevers’ bill likely goes next to the Senate budget committee for review, where more debate is expected of the financing plans.
State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, a contractor, said the proposal would add another layer to inspections that are going on in individual municipalities, like Jefferson and Orleans parishes.
“We’re just adding more and more layers and cost,” he said.
Supporters of the bill disagreed, saying the statewide inspection program wouldn’t replace local regulations where they exist but would add requirements in areas that don’t have any rules for regular safety reviews of elevators and escalators.
“This will not duplicate,” said Charlie Melancon, a former congressman pushing the bill for the elevator industry.
Melancon said 22 states have passed similar legislation. He said Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas all have statewide elevator inspection laws, and he said their requirements are broader than Nevers’ proposal.
How many elevators and escalators would fall under the inspection requirements was unclear because no one’s ever inventoried them, Melancon said.
The bill would place the state fire marshal’s office in charge of the program, which would require most elevators and escalators to be registered by 2016 and annually inspected by 2017. Family homes would be exempt from the requirements.
“We’re talking about escalators in the mall, elevators in public buildings,” Melancon said.
Appel questioned the need for changes in elevator maintenance, saying material distributed by supporters of the bill show one death in the last 17 years.
But Melancon said that’s only data collected by federal officials looking at workplace injuries. He said a child died last week in a service elevator accident in Slidell.
Some critics of the inspection proposal, including business organizations, say it’s more about increasing union membership than about ensuring safety because inspector qualifications are largely obtained through union apprenticeship programs. But no one spoke in opposition to the measure Wednesday.