According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, every year up to 30 people are killed in elevator accidents. In almost all cases, these injuries involve a construction or maintenance worker who is performing elevator maintenance or installation.
The majority of these accidents occur because of improper or inadequate fall protection. In fact, approximately half of those killed in elevator accidents are killed from falls down the shaft. About one-third of elevator fatalities are caused by workers being caught between or struck by objects. A small number of fatalities are caused by electrocution.
Worker injury or death involving elevators can usually be traced to one of the following factors:
- Electric shock or electrocution
- Being struck by the elevator or counterweight
- Getting caught in the door or other moving parts
- Falling from the elevator car
- Asphyxiation while trapped in the elevator
- Falling into the elevator shaft
One contributing factor to elevator accidents is the fact that, in many cases, elevator shafts are not treated as confined spaces. This is a dangerous mistake since elevator shaft ways below and above the car should always be considered confined spaces.
It is important to remember that elevator shafts may have two different space classifications depending on where they are located. Further, these locations change depending on where work is being performed.
When it comes to electrocution hazards, wires and areas of high voltage always need to be appropriately marked and deactivated when working on an electrically powered component. One common cause of electrocution accidents related to elevators occurs when construction crews are not thoroughly trained on electrical hazards.
While death from elevator accidents on construction sites are more widely reported in the news media, severe injuries can occur, as well. These injuries include brain, back, neck, and spinal cord injuries. Other common injuries include broken bones and nerve damage.
Of course, almost all elevator injuries or fatalities could be avoided with the correct safety training. Such training would also include what safety equipment needs to be used when working on or around elevators. Gloves, hardhats and reinforced footwear are a must. These items, as well as a personal fall arrest system, should be provided by construction companies for their employees.