Elevators seem harmless to us because we see them every day and we rarely hear about elevator accidents. But
from 1984 to 2014, OSHA has document 476 fatalities involving construction workers falling down elevator shafts. Any type of worker who is on a construction site can be involved in a construction accident, and that includes deadly falls down open elevator shafts.
Bronx Man Falls Down An Elevator Shaft
In 2016, a Bronx construction worker working on a project in New York City detached his safety belt to climb a ladder in an elevator shaft and wound up falling three stories to his death. The company he was working for had been fined before on that very work site, and the Department of Buildings in New York City shut the site down after the death while an investigation took place.
Work site safety is of paramount importance to workers and construction company owners, but worker deaths can still occur when details are not properly attended to. An open elevator shaft on a job site is a construction accident waiting to happen, but it does not have to be that way if workers were trained to follow safe working procedures.
Taking Steps To Prevent Elevator Accidents
On a construction site, asking workers to be aware of open elevator shafts and their dangers is not enough to maximize safety. For example, the recent accident mentioned above in New York City possibly could have been prevented if the worker had not detached his safety harness. In these instances, workers using the safety training they have already received could go a long way towards preventing further injuries and worker deaths.
Elevator shafts should be clearly marked and, where necessary, blocked from worker access. In instances where workers must work near or access an elevator shaft, many of the OSHA safety rules would apply. For example, the use of a ladder near an elevator shaft should be done under the OSHA rules regarding the use of safety gear and the proper way to use ladders.
In some instances, elevator shaft falls occur when workers are on temporary structures built over elevator shafts and those structures collapse. When scaffolding is used, OSHA has comprehensive safety rules and guidelines that can be followed to help create stronger and more reliable temporary structures for workers to use. Many of the safety rules required to protect workers from falls down elevator shafts already exist, but it is up to construction companies to utilize these guidelines in order to keep workers safe.
What Workers Can Do To Protect Themselves
OSHA laws state that construction companies must create safe working environments for all of their workers, and workers should be allowed to report any safety issues to the company for correction. If a worker feels as though they are being asked to perform unsafe tasks in or near an elevator shaft, then that worker should report their concerns to the site supervisor immediately.
While many of the safety guidelines concerning elevator shafts can be pulled from various parts of the OSHA safety rules, specific training on how to handle elevator shaft work is still important for every construction company. Each worker should be alerted to the various safety measures they can take to prevent accidents when working in and around elevator shafts. Construction companies are also responsible for providing the safety harnesses and other safety equipment workers need to work safely on any job site.
It can be easy to take elevators and elevator shafts for granted because they are a common fixture in everyday life. However, it can be deadly for construction workers to take elevator shafts for granted, and let their guard down when it comes to safety protocols. Whenever a work site includes elevator shafts, there should be adequate safety equipment and training available for workers in order to prevent deaths and enhance work site safety.
Thanks to our friends at Voorhies Law Firm for their contributions to this post.