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How dangerous are elevators in the workplace?

If you are a Minnesota worker whose job requires you to work on, in or near elevators, your risk of injury or even death is substantially greater than that of general elevator passengers. The Center for Construction Research and Training reports that approximately 17,000 people are injured each year in elevator accidents and 31 are killed.

Half of these fatalities are to elevator installers, repairmen and maintenance workers. Most of them, 56 percent, are due to a worker falling down the elevator shaft; 18 percent are due to a worker getting caught in or between the elevator’s moving parts; 16 percent are due to a worker being struck by the elevator or one of its counterweights.

You also are at risk if you clean elevator shafts, engage in construction close to open shafts, or are part of a team that rescues and evacuates passengers caught in a stalled elevator. Bear in mind, however, that fully one-third of worker elevator deaths are to constructors and mechanics.

Elevator fatality statistics

Between 1992 and 2009, the latest period for which statistics are available, 263 workers were killed, 110 while installing or repairing an elevator, 107 while working near an elevator, and 46 while working in the elevator shaft or car.

Nearly 75 percent of the installation/repair deaths were to elevator constructors, defined as workers who install and repair elevators. The remaining 25 percent of these deaths were to supervisors, engineers, electricians and others who were part of the installation and/or repair team.

Of the 107 fatalities to people working near an elevator, virtually all of the victims were construction workers, not elevator constructors. Forty-nine of these deaths occurred when the elevator shafts were improperly guarded or not guarded at all. The 46 deaths to people working inside the shaft or car were distributed among the following worker activities:

  • Fixing a stuck elevator
  • Cleaning the elevator shaft
  • Attempting to retrieve objects, such as keys, that had fallen into the shaft
  • Standing on a platform over the shaft that collapsed

This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.

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