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Lifts and Elevators Facts Everyone Should Know

Updated on October 28, 2012
Are we safe inside elevators?
Are we safe inside elevators? | Source

Elisha Otis introduced the first safety elevator in 1852, while the first Otis passenger elevator was installed in 1857 in New York City. Elevators or lifts are very useful in modern societies for without them, skyscrapers would not be in operation. In the United States alone there are approximately 900,000 elevators serving an average of 20,000 persons each year.

Unfortunately, freak accidents involving elevators happen which made people rethink about the safety of these mechanical boxes. It is sad that these deaths has to happen before we check the integrity and safety of elevators. The National Elevator Industry, Inc (NEII) in America has set established guidelines for a safe elevator ride.

Most elevator-related accidents involve human error. It can either be attributed to elevator inspection procedures, faulty or lack of maintenance and actions of passengers. According to data based on a study by the Center Construction Research and Training (US) elevator accidents account for an average of 30 annual deaths and injury to over 17,000 people in the U.S. alone. This data include both passengers, elevator repairmen and elevator installers where 50% of the fatalities are caused by falls.

Safety features of modern elevators

Common Causes of Malfunctions in an Elevator

Based on ConsumerWatch data, the following are common causes of elevator defects and malfunction:

  • Mechanical or pulley system failure causing accelerated drop of the elevator within the shaft
  • An open shaft or open doors risking passengers to fall off into the shaft
  • Faulty wiring or electrical malfunction causing electricution
  • Repairs, inspection and maintenance by unqualified personnel
  • Failure of elevator to level with floor
  • Wiring malfunction due to heat caused by a fire or due to water sprinklers

Are Elevators Still Safe?

Elevators are considered the safest mechanical transport system when they are properly maintained. Since many people in cities and urban areas rely on them to transport them in buildings whether at home or at work on a daily basis, even 24/7, modern elevators are equipped with technologically advanced features which make is safe and accident-safe as much as possible.

Modern elevators and lifts are equipped with automatic features such as more efficient door systems with sensors to stop the door from closing when there is still an apparent obstruction. In the event of an emergency, an alarm switch can be activated by the passenger. Elevators are even installed with a telephone or intercom to allow communication to stalled passengers with maintenance crew. During power failures, certain elevators have emergency lighting to illuminate and emergency power to allow its movement and evacuate passengers to safety in some cases.

Other elevators have these added features to make them safer:

  • interlocks to prevent it from leaving a landing when the doors are not fully closed and secured,
  • a safety brake system and a speed sensor designed to prevent the elevator from over speeding in its down direction and helps it to have safe emergency stop once it over speeds,
  • emergency evacuation shaft which must be opened only from the outside by trained personnel,
  • a 'buffer' which prevents unplanned travel below the lowest landing of a building
  • fire emergency systems

Elevator Safety Guidelines

What to do if you are stalled in an elevator (Source: NEII website)

  • Push the "DOOR OPEN" button
  • Stay Calm
  • Press 'ALARM" or 'HELP BUTTON
  • Relax and DO NOT TRY TO EXTRACT YOURSELF from the elevator.

The guidelines also provide for safety practices while waiting,boarding, riding, and exiting an elevator, but emphasis should be place on the fourth enumerated above. During an elevator emergency, the guidelines provide that you should never try to leave an elevator which has not stopped normally.It is natural for a person to panic upon realization that he is trapped and it is normal to find a way out. But the elevator is a different one should not give in to panic and staying inside to wait for help to arrive might be more safe that trying to climb out from it. A stucked elevator has the danger of moving at any time and it is best to keep yourself inside while it has not fully stopped at any floor.

Another important reminder for elevator riders is to watch one's step and make sure that the elevator is levelled with the floor before boarding and exiting.

What Needs to be done

The guidelines for safe elevator riding must be posted in a clearly visible area where people who ride them can easily see and read. The safety precautions are clearly outline which inform people of how to embar, disembark and how to behave while inside these elevators. More important among the guidelines are what to do during emergency scenarios to avoid panic and any injury. Moreover, stringent codes must be in place to require regular inspection and maintenance of these elevators by highly qualified personnel to ensure its proper functioning and the safety of the of the passengers.

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    • solarcaptain profile image

      mike king 3 years ago from california

      Halloween is a good time to celebrate the

      Impact of losing it as you plunge to

      supersonic, speeds in excess of 3200 feet per second-

      but you have time to gasp in amazement as your eyeballs

      are detachef from your face and you watch in horror as your ass goes skidding by. The simple act of cutting the cable while still inside may be an irrefutabe blunder frank.


    • gmmurgirl profile image

      Gei Moore 6 years ago from Philippines

      Hi RTalloni. You are right, sometimes we take our safety for granted for one reason or another. No matter how advanced these elevators are, humans still play a major factor in how they benefit or harm us in general.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting to learn about this safety issue and about elevators in general. We see them and use them without giving much thought to them!