Elevator accidents are remarkably rare, but when they do occur are very serious and can result in substantial injuries and even fatalities. All modern electrical elevators are fitted with counter-weights to prevent the car from plummeting. Even if one of the metal ropes becomes torn, the counterweight will pull the elevator car upwards, rather than letting it fall.
However, common elevator accidents often involved the doors. Elevator doors are fitted with motion sensors to prevent them from slamming closed on a body part, however smaller items of clothing may not be detected by these sensors. Getting a scarf caught in an elevator door can be particularly risky. Other parts of clothing becoming caught in the doors can lead to broken bones and dislocated joints, as the moving elevator will force the body part either up or down. In some cases, poor maintenance can lead to the motion sensor on an elevator door becoming completely faulty. Trapped fingers can result in serious injury and even amputation.
On older elevators with manual doors, it is very important to follow the instructions within the car to close the doors properly. Most elevators of this kind will have a built in safety mechanism which prevents the car from moving if the door is not locked, but these systems are not without fault. Also very important is to keep hands and fingers well clear of the point at which the doors lock together. Trapped fingers are very likely to suffer breaks. Although very rare in elevators with electric doors, the car moving without the doors having closed can be very dangerous. The most important thing to remember with manual-door elevators is to close them behind you when you leave the car – especially on high floors. Leaving a door open exposes the elevator shaft and creates a falling risk.
In the rare event that a poorly maintained elevator does fall, bone fractures, spinal injuries and concussion are among the most common injuries. This is far more likely to occur in older and smaller elevators that have been overloaded. Putting too much weight into an elevator car substantially increases the risk of an accident. Inside every elevator is printed the maximum weight limit for that system – it is very important to observe that limitation.
It is possible to become trapped in an elevator between floors, particularly if a power cut has occurred. However, this is no reason to panic. All elevators are fitted with alarm bells that connect directly to the manufacturer. Often, the elevator can be mobilised again remotely, or a nearby operative will arrive quickly to fix the problem.
Poor maintenance is the main cause of all elevator related accidents. Modern elevators are designed with safety as an absolute priority and as long as they are properly looked after, accidents are practically unheard of. As a general rule, if an elevator looks particularly badly maintained (for example if the lights are broken or the buttons inside are faulty) it might be a good idea to climb the stairs.