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Steven M. Lee, PC

The Ups and Downs of Working Near Elevators

Employer precautions can go a long way to improving elevator construction safetyDespite the numerous one-liners made on the subject (“A-flat minor”; “he got the shaft”), elevator accidents are no joke. In fact, every year, over 17,000 injuries and 30 deaths occur as a direct result of elevator mishaps. The truly surprising statistic, however, is that nearly 50 percent of these deaths are attributed to people working on or near elevators.

That’s right, the construction crew is at extreme risk for elevator accidents.

Elevator Construction Safety

Elevator shaft accidents are one of the most preventable, and deadly, types of construction accidents. They occur above and inside the actual shaft when adequate (and mandatory) safety precautions are not in place. The following safety precautions are required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), but are casually ignored by many employers. This indifference toward employee safety means that hardworking construction workers under his employ often pay with their lives.

OSHA regulation standards your employer should always follow include:

  • Elevator shafts should have guardrails and “personal fall systems” that can support 5,000 pounds of weight (3,000 if equipped with two-foot fall limiters) during construction. Open shafts should always be marked and barricaded to prevent employees from falling into the shaft.
  • Elevators with known defects which affects safety should never be used without proper safety protocols in place, and safety devices should never be overridden or made inoperable.
  • Elevator maximum load limits should be posted and never exceeded.
  • Elevator workers must be supplied with safety harnesses and nets while working near the edge of any shaft higher than six feet.

Unfortunately, nearly all elevator shaft accidents result from safety negligence, such as open elevator shafts without proper warning signs, or workers precariously dangling over shafts without nets. This kind of disregard for safety is exactly what leads to serious injuries.

Elevated Risks

Most elevator shaft accidents are caused by falls. Elevator shafts tend to be deep and narrow, which often leads to permanent injuries. The confined space and long drop also inhibit rescue efforts, which may increase the long-term effects of the following common injuries:

  • Bruises, scrapes, and lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Severe head and brain trauma
  • Internal impact injuries

Unfortunately, falls aren’t the only risk. Open elevator shafts also pose threats of being caught in or between moving parts, getting struck by a moving car or counterweight, and being crushed by falling debris or collapsed platforms—all of which can be deadly.

The Help You Need to Lift Yourself Up

Elevator injuries are preventable with simple employer precautions. When safety is ignored and workers are injured, workers’ compensation laws will help provide financial aid for the victims. However, even the protection afforded by workers' compensation benefits can only cushion the life-changing effects of an elevator accident. It would have been had the accident never happened in the first place.

If you've been injured in an elevator shaft accident, a construction injury attorney can work with you to determine liability and options for seeking additional aid. Contact Steve Lee at 800-232-3711 to learn more. Speaking to a qualified and experienced Houston construction accident attorney can help you determine liability, build a solid claim, and vigorously pursue the fair compensation to which you are entitled.


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