Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries said it issues about 23,000 correction notices per year to building owners to fix elevators.
“For many people, [getting stuck in an elevator] is their worst nightmare,” said L&I’s Chief Elevator Inspector Jack Day. “The good news is that elevators rarely fall down shafts and hurt people. The bad news is that L&I inspectors continue to find elevators with inoperable lights, alarms, and emergency phones that building owners have not maintained. If the power goes out and the batteries are dead, and/or the phones are broken or incorrectly routed, you could find yourself stuck in the dark for a long time.”
L&I has 22 elevator inspectors who try to inspect every elevator in the state annually, Day said. (Seattle and Spokane have their own inspection programs.) Between June 2009 and June 2010, the Department conducted 12,000 routine elevator inspections and issued about 23,000 correction notices to building owners — nearly two corrections for every one they inspected.In many cases, L&I requires the building owner to shut down the elevator until the problem is fixed.
Among the typical safety hazards L&I elevator inspectors uncover:
- Elevator doors are improperly set, so it closes with too much force. This can cause injury if someone tries to reopen the door at the last minute or lingers in the doorway for too long, and the door’s “nudging” system has too much force.
- Emergency phone in elevator isn’t set to a back-up service with 24-hour emergency help when building maintenance staff are not on-site to help stranded passengers.
- Dead batteries on alarm, emergency lights, and phones; all three need working batteries to operate in a power outage.
- Elevators are not level to the floor when they stop.
- No fire extinguisher.
- Suspension ropes need to be replaced.
- Owner (usually the owner’s elevator maintenance service) didn’t perform an annual safety test to check all of the above.
L&I also inspects the state’s 500 escalators, as well. Most “conveyance” accidents don’t occur on elevators, but on escalators, and many are due to rider-error, the Department said. People may have too many packages, a loaded stroller or luggage pieces and can’t use the hand rail. These accidents tend to be falls from a loss of balance or injuries caused by being struck by runaway luggage.
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