23
October
2006
|
12:00 AM
America/New_York

Summary of information provided at Oct. 24 new briefing on elevator accident

Officials with The Ohio State University and Ohio Department of Commerce held a briefing for reporters at 2 p.m., today (10/24) at Longaberger Alumni House to address questions related to the accident that occurred last weekend resulting in the death of an Ohio State student. The university will also provided an update on its efforts to evaluate residence hall elevators, as called upon earlier this week by Ohio State President Karen A. Holbrook.

The following information was provided by the university at the news briefing:

Remarks from Rich Hollingsworth, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs

The Ohio State University community is deeply saddened by the death of Andrew Polakowski. Today, more than 30 students and several staff members are traveling to his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, to attend funeral services. On behalf of the students, faculty and staff of Ohio State, I offer our deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Andy's death is a loss felt by the entire OSU family.

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our students. We want to find out as much as we can about the cause or causes of this tragic accident, so that we can take whatever steps possible to ensure that it does not occur again.

I'd like to outline our safety precautions for you, both what our standard procedures have been and what we have been doing since Friday night.

First, our residence hall elevators have an outstanding record of safety. This accident is the only serious incident I am aware of in my 33 years working at Ohio State. To give you an idea of the scope of the operation, Ohio State has 68 elevators in residence halls. The elevator involved in Friday's accident recorded 475,000 starts in the past 12 months, and we believe that is typical for the 18 elevators in the 6 similar high rises on South Campus, meaning that those elevators start over 8 million times a year.
(A start is recorded each time an elevator stops at a floor and takes on a passenger).

• Because our elevators are used so heavily, we have contracted our maintenance and service to outside companies specializing in this work. We require them to keep two licensed mechanics on duty 40 hours per week Monday through Friday to perform continuous preventive maintenance and to respond to service requests and to have licensed mechanics on call 24 hours a day.

• The elevators are inspected twice a year by the Industrial Compliance Division of the Ohio Department of Commerce, and all met the compliance standards at the most recent inspections in August. Certificates of compliance are on file in the Student Affairs Facilities Administration Office.

That's the history. Here's what we've done since Friday.

• On Monday, we cooperated fully with the state inspectors, who tested Elevator 2 in Stradley, the one involved in the accident. The elevator failed the static brake test and was shut down. The other two elevators in Stradley were also tested, and the other passenger elevator also failed the static brake test and was shut down. The freight elevator passed and is in operation.

• Because these test results were very unexpected, I ordered that all the similar elevators in the six South Campus buildings be tested immediately. Crews worked through the night, and as of this hour, all 18 of those elevators have had static brake tests, which show whether the elevator can maintain its position when loaded to 125% of capacity. Twelve have passed and are in operation. Six have failed and are shut down right now. The fact that an elevator fails the static brake test does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe—there are secondary brakes and other safety features that prevent it from falling rapidly. However, these elevators will not be returned to use until service is completed and they are re-certified as 100% compliant with safety standards.

• We are continuing static brake tests with all of our residence hall elevators, beginning with the high rise buildings. It will take at least a week to complete all 67 elevator tests.

• Given the safety implications, a week is too long, so I have ordered visual inspections of all untested elevators, which will be completed by midnight today. A licensed mechanic and our staff will look at the braking mechanisms in each elevator. Any elevator that shows a possibility of being unable to pass the test will also be shut down pending further tests and service, if needed.

• Yesterday, we posted signs outside and inside every elevator reminding passengers of the common sense precautions to take in using elevators: observe the weight loads, never to attempt to exit a stalled or moving car, and do not jump in the elevators or otherwise play around.

Obviously, a number of our students are going to be inconvenienced by having some of the elevators shut down, but we are asking for their understanding and for them to use the stairs when possible and avoid overloading the remaining elevators.

Finally, President Holbrook has directed me to conduct a review of elevator safety throughout our residence halls. Within the next week I will appoint a task force of faculty, staff and students, who will work with professional experts to conduct a thorough review of our procedures and policies regarding elevator operations and safety.

I want to assure students and their families that we are committed to protecting their safety in our residence halls.

Remarks from Molly Ranz, Director of Facilities Planning & Support, Office of Student Affairs

Among my responsibilities are the maintenance contracts and service of the elevators within Student Affairs facilities. We historically and presently utilize an independent contractor to maintain our elevators. We rely on their professional expertise, as well as the Department of Commerce, to assure the safe and consistent operation of our equipment. There are a number of statutory testing and inspection requirements:
• Department of Commerce inspects twice a year
• Two additional inspections are required to be performed by the servicing contractor and submitted the Department of Commerce
(1) a full load test (every 5-years)
(2) and a safety test (annually)
Our contract is currently with Abell/Irvin. The contract requires that Abell/Irvin have at least two service mechanics on campus to provide routine preventative maintenance work and service to all of Student Affairs elevators from 7:30 a.m. -4:30 p.m. weekdays. After 4:30 p.m., the contract requires Abell/Irvin to provide "on-call staff' to respond to any calls from the Student Affairs service desk. Required response time for routine calls is 45 minutes and for entrapments, 30 minutes.

• Inspection history of Stradley Elevator #2:
• Department of Commerce inspected on 12/29/2005 and 6/21/2006
• And our previous elevator contractor, Otis Elevators, conducted a full load test 8/18/03 and a safety test 7/24/06. Reports are on record
• On Monday, October 23, when state inspectors and reps from AbellIrvin completed the inspection on the Elevator #2, a static brake test was conducted in which 125% of the capacity was loaded into the elevator. Elevator #2 in Stradley failed the static brake test at 125% capacity
• Following that discovery, we immediately began static brake testing of Elevators #1, and #3 in Stradley Hall. Elevator #1 failed the static brake test at 125% capacity. It was immediately shut down. Elevator #3 passed the static brake test at 125% capacity
• From Stradley Hall, we moved to Park, Steeb and Smith, similar buildings to Stradley. The findings were as follows:
a. Park Hall – 2 passed and 1 failed
b. Steeb Hall - 2 passed and 1 failed
c. Smith Hall – 1 passed and two failed

• On Tuesday, October 24, we resumed static brake testing and have completed Morrison Tower (3 elevators), Siebert Hall (3 elevators), Drackett Tower (4 elevators), and Taylor Tower (4 elevators). All elevators in these facilities passed the 125% test.
• We plan to continue the static brake test on the remaining 42 elevators in the residence halls. The priority is the high-rises and then we will move to the low-rise elevators. The high-rise elevators will be completed by Friday, October 27. We will continue through the weekend and next week to have the static brake test conducted on the remaining elevators.
• Elevator #2 at Stradley will remain out of service until the State completes its investigation.

Abell/Irvin will be performing the necessary maintenance as soon as possible on the other elevators that have been taken out of service. Once that has been done, the Department of Commerce will inspect those elevators and, if all is satisfactory, they will be returned to service. We are hoping to accomplish that within a week.

Statement of Rick Amweg, Assistant Chief of University Police

At about 11:20 p.m. Friday night, October 20, 24 people, students and visitors from the third floor of Stradley Hall, a residence hall on Ohio State University's main campus, were en route to an event off campus. They gathered in the third floor elevator lobby, and when an empty elevator arrived, all 24 people attempted to enter the elevator car. Mr. Polakowski, an 18-year-old first quarter freshman from Erie, PA, was one of the last people to enter the elevator car. As he got on board, the elevator car began to descend. The doors of the elevator had not yet closed. Mr. Polakowski then attempted to get off the elevator by jumping through the opening. The elevator car continued its descent, pinning Mr. Polakowski between the elevator car and the building. He suffered extensive injuries and died.

The ongoing police investigation has revealed no criminal wrongdoing by the students in the elevator. Alcohol was not a factor in the accident. Further, there is no evidence that this event was part of a college prank or other intentional activity. They simply wanted to stay together as a group so they could leave the building at the same time.