Elevator and Escalator Fatalities and Injuries
Are you one of those people who takes the stairs because you are afraid of riding in an elevator or stepping onto an escalator? Or, are you one of those people who makes fun of people who take the stairs in order to avoid an elevator or escalator? As it turns out, a fear of elevators and escalators may be legitimate. According to government statistics, every year, an average of 30 people die from elevator or escalator injuries. Another 17,000 are seriously injured.
Injuries and death from elevator and escalator incidents can be particularly gruesome because of the force of the mechanisms and the vulnerability of users.
Common suggestions from safety professionals: When the elevator door opens, look before you take a step inside to be sure the elevator is actually there and you are not stepping into an empty shaft. On escalators, watch your loose clothing to be sure it does not get caught between escalator steps.
Elevator Fatalities and Injuries
A 2013 study of elevator and escalator accidents was published by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). The organization studied deaths and injuries involving those who worked in or near elevators as well as deaths and injuries of elevator passengers.
Deaths and injuries to workers working on or near elevators
Between 1982 and 2010, there were 45 deaths to people who were working on or near elevators. The categories of the incidents are as follows:
- 26 workers fell down an elevator shaft.
- 8 were struck by an elevator or got stuck in its mechanisms.
- 4 deaths occurred when the elevator they were in collapsed.
- 3 workers were electrocuted.
- 4 died from “unknown circumstances.”
Deaths and injuries to passengers using an elevator while at work
Between 1992 and 2009, 89 people were killed who were using an elevator at their workplace just to move from one floor to the other. The majority of these deaths occurred when the elevator door opened, and the individuals stepped into and fell down an open shaft because the elevator car was not present. People have also died by being caught in between the door shaft and the elevator door.
Deaths and injuries to ordinary elevator passengers
Between 1997 and 2010, on average five elevator passengers every year were killed. Slip and fall accidents accounted for about half of the deaths as people tripped as they entered or exited the elevator. The rest of the deaths were due to people, again, stepping into an empty elevator shaft after the elevator door opened, but the elevator car had not arrived. Eight of those deaths occurred in Illinois.
Escalator Fatalities and Injuries
Deaths of those working on escalators as passengers were not reported. For regular passengers, those not at work, two people died every year for a total of 39 deaths during the time period studied. Six of those occurred in Illinois. Nearly a third of the deaths were due to falls. The rest are referred to as “caught-in-between” accidents, which means the death occurred after a person’s clothing became caught between an escalator stair or sidewall.
Safety Research and Strategies (SRS) has done its own study of elevator and escalator injuries. It found that although there are more elevators in the U.S. than escalators, there are 15 times more escalator accidents resulting in injuries than there are elevator injuries.
More than three-fourths of the escalator injuries are due to falls, which cause severe injuries and even deaths. Small children and those 65 or older are the most common victims of escalator falls. Some fall getting on or off the escalator, others lean too far over the side and fall totally off the escalator and land on the floor below.
Elevator and Escalator Faulty Design Issues Contribute to Accidents
The CPWR report makes many recommendations on elevator safety improvement. They all involve better design and maintenance of elevators.
Some consultants report that escalators need a better design. For example, some engineers suggest that steps are not the right width and that the steps move too fast. One expert said the basic design of escalators has not changed in decades. If design flaws were corrected, injuries on escalators would be less frequent and entrapments between the steps would be eliminated. Overloading of the escalator would be less possible, which would also reduce accidents.
If you were injured in an elevator or escalator accident, or a family member was killed in such an accident, contact us at the Blumenshine Law Group in Chicago. We offer a free consultation.