Ups and Downs of Elevator and Escalator Safety

Nov. 10, 2003
Did you know thousands of people each year suffer injuries while riding in elevators or on escalators?

Although they're considered the safest and the most frequently used form of transportation in the world, accidents do happen. Officials say that most of those accidents can be prevented with proper use of elevators and escalators.

Nov. 10-14 is "Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week," aimed at increasing public awareness about the importance of using conveyances safely.

"Elevators and escalators are the most frequently used mode of transportation in the world," said Dotty Stanlaske, the chief elevator inspector at the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) for the state of Washington. "And even though these conveyances are considered the safest form of mass transit, they are not toys or amusement rides. Most of the accidents we investigate are 100 percent preventable."

According to the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation, there are nearly 700,000 elevators and escalators in the country. It's estimated that they're used for about 85 billion trips a year. Still, there are more than 14,450 injuries reported in the country each year on short-range conveyances. Last year, L&I investigated about 35 elevator and escalator injury accidents in the state.

To prevent injury, Stanlaske recommends some safe-riding tips. For elevators:

  • Enter and exit carefully.
  • Watch out for closing doors and do not touch moving doors to try to keep them from closing.
  • If the doors do not open when the elevator stops, ring the alarm button and wait. Never force the doors open.
  • Do not use elevators if there's a fire. Use the stairs.

For escalators:

  • Step on and off with care, and take extra care if you wear bifocals.
  • Always stand facing forward.
  • Never bring strollers, walkers or carts of any type on an escalator.
  • Pay close attention and attend small children.
  • Hold onto the handrails and avoid the sides under the rail.
  • Move quickly and away from exit areas.

L&I's Elevator Program is responsible for regulating 13,000 elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters, hillside trams, grain elevators, boat launches, wheelchair lifts and other conveyances in the state. For more information, visit www.LNI.wa.gov/scs/elevators/default.htm.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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