Thursday, October 11, 2012
Legislative Auditor’s report incidentally blasts DLIR’s failure to ensure public safety
“DLIR is unable to carry out its current inspection duties”—Legislative Auditor
by Larry Geller
The Legislative Auditor released a report today assessing the need to regulate zip lines in Hawaii, and concluded that the legislature should not enact SB2433 of the 2012 legislative session that would require the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) to charge fees of zipline operators and begin to regulate the attractions.
The issue of regulation came about after an incident in September 2011 in which a construction worker was killed working on a zip line on the Big Island:
The death of a zip line construction worker Wednesday on the Big Island could lead to government oversight of the industry, which consists of at least nineteen operations on all of the main Hawaiian islands.
Teddy Callaway, 36, of Maui, was killed when a 30-foot wooden tower collapsed causing him to fall off a zip line 200 feet above Honoli'i stream.
[KHON, Death of man on Big Island turns spotlight on zip line industry , 9/22/2011]
The audit report concludes that regulation is not necessary:
Since proponents have not provided any evidence of harm or abusive practices, we conclude that the necessity for regulating zipline and canopy tour operators has not been established. To the extent these businesses operating in Hawai‘i must be inspected annually based on industry standards for insurance purposes, safety measures are already in place to protect the public.
Reading the report reveals what perhaps is a far larger safety problem—the auditor concludes (emphasis in the original) that “Clearly [the DLIR] is not capable of funding its current duties,” referring to a backlog of 5,000 elevator inspections and a complete absence of amusement ride inspections.
In the audit summary the auditor explains why DLIR was selected and rapidly concludes that the Senate’s choice would not work out:
The body of the report reiterates the same conclusion:
The DLIR lacks the capability to ensure public safety for its existing elevator and boiler inspection program. The department has a multiyear inspection backlog of 5,000 elevators. Clearly, the department is not capable of handling its current duties, let alone another inspection program, especially without significant additional resources.
Act 103 of the current legislative session creates a special fund intended to make the elevator inspections self-sufficient, but the audit report is not at all optimistic, estimating it could take well into FY 2013-2014 to bring the safety program up to date.
I’ve ridden in elevators in the Liliha area that stopped suddenly at each floor, requiring the floor buttons to be pushed again and again. Elevators these days do not display an inspection certificate. Perhaps the lack of inspections has something to do with that.
Add DLIR to the list of state agencies not performing their duties. The Department of Health recently settled a lawsuit that concluded it failed to provide required mental health services for several years. A separate part of DOH has not been inspecting weekend farmers markets or food stands at all. The Department of Transportation (along with the Honolulu DOT) is unable to reduce the record number of seniors killed. Etc., etc.