Home elevators accidents prevention

Installing a home elevator can increase both accessibility and convenience in a home. Home elevators can provide much-needed help for people with mobility issues as they ascend and descend stairs throughout the day. At the same time, however, home elevators can pose risks, especially when homeowners don’t take steps to educate themselves and their household members on ways to avoid home elevator accidents.

Let’s take a look at a few of these preventative methods, mention some incidents that have occurred in recent years, and equip homeowners with ways to prevent home elevator accidents.

Risks Posed by Home Elevators

Home elevators can introduce a host of potential elevator-related incidents and injuries, particularly for children. Think of home elevators like a swimming pool – kids shouldn’t be left alone in them, they shouldn’t be used during a storm, and they can be dangerous for people who aren’t being careful when they use them.

In recent years, there have been a number of high-profile accidents involving home elevators, some of which have been fatal, and one of which left a child dead in North Carolina.

One major danger of home elevators is the space between the elevator car and the hoistway door. Some home elevator fatalities have been caused by children getting crushed in this space, which can be as large as four inches. While safety code requirements brought this down from the five-inch limit that was required before 2016, four inches can still be more than enough space to entrap a child. There are continued, widespread calls to limit this spacing even further in the hopes of preventing more tragedies moving forward.

Another factor to consider is the fact that home elevators are usually designed to mimic the finishings of a home. If home elevator doors are designed to look like closet doors, there is potential for the locking mechanism to be manipulated by someone who may be looking for something else, or for the door to be opened by someone who doesn’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Children could also interact with this mechanism, allowing the elevator to run with the door open – and leading to potentially serious consequences. Doors are an integral safety feature of elevators, and improving regulations will result in safer home elevators.

Another danger of home elevators is that they lack some of the safety features required for commercial elevators. Many home elevators do not have key-access buttons, which essentially means that anyone can operate the elevator. As you can imagine, this causes major concern. Understanding the associated dangers of home elevators and ensuring regular inspection are vital components to home elevator safety.

Home elevators also need to be held to a higher standard when it comes to inspection, as the requirements for home elevator inspection are not subject to the same national safety standards as public elevators.

There have been strong efforts in recent years to improve the safety of home elevators. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has developed safety standards for home elevators, and some states and local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) require home elevators to meet these standards. The International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) is working to promote additional safety standards and inspections to protect people who use these conveyance systems.

How to Prevent Home Elevator Accidents

While home elevators do pose risks, there are measures that homeowners can take to prevent such accidents. Being aware of the potential risks mentioned above is paramount, but there are additional steps that homeowners may follow to maximize safety:

  1. Never allow children to operate the elevator unsupervised. Look to install a keyed access system on the outside and inside of your home elevator as soon as possible. This will prevent children from being able to access or operate the elevator by themselves.
  2. Ensure a two-way communication system is available inside your home elevator so that if someone becomes trapped, they can quickly call for help.
  3. Make sure the elevator is inspected by an elevator company regularly, ensuring it’s in good working order and that there are no safety hazards.
  4. Consider contacting your local or state representative, commissioner, or AHJ and speaking to them about supporting legislation that would require home elevators to meet the same national safety standards as public elevators. When enough people bring these issues to the attention of their representatives, changes are often made.

Most AHJs do not require home elevators to be periodically tested and inspected as recommended by ASME – an American national standard – so homeowners with residential elevators installed on their property must be extra vigilant regarding potential hazards.

Elevator maintenance control programs MCP

If you are the owner or manager of a multi-story building, you know about the importance of regular elevator maintenance and inspection, which is designed to keep your elevator and escalator equipment running safely and reliably. Every day, the people who live, work, attend appointments, or access services in your building rely on your building’s vertical transportation systems to get them to their destinations.

While some situations – such as a flood or power outage in your building – can cause your conveyance equipment to stop working unexpectedly, most failures of elevator and escalator systems are preventable. That’s why it’s critical that you have a plan in place for elevator technicians to regularly inspect and maintain your building’s elevators, escalators, and other conveyance equipment – so you can address problems before interruptions in service occur.

What is a Maintenance Control Program?

A Maintenance Control Program (MCP) is exactly what it sounds like: a plan to ensure that an elevator, escalator, or other conveyance equipment is maintained correctly throughout its life. It contains specific written information that indicates what maintenance should be performed, how that maintenance should be performed, when it should be performed, and how often it should be performed.

Elevator inspector and elevator industry expert John W. Koshak (QEC, CEI), describes it as follows:

An MCP (Maintenance Control Program) must provide a list of necessary work items to be performed, a place to record the completed work, and the records of completion made available to persons trained in the construction, maintenance, repair, inspection, or testing of vertical transportation equipment, which includes AHJs/RAs – Inspectors. It requires the maintenance company’s elevator personnel to do something – for example examine, test, clean, lubricate, and adjust applicable components listed in the code. The applicable components are a code-defined list of components that historically have caused hazards when they fail to perform their safety function when demanded, typically due to lack of maintenance. It also specifies that any special procedures, defined by the maintenance company or manufacturer, to also be provided in the MCP.

Most Authorities Having Jurisdictions (AHJs) have adopted the 2000 or later editions of the ASME A17.1/CSA B44 elevator code, which require an MCP for all conveyance equipment including elevators, escalators, and moving walks (check the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund’s website or with your local authority having jurisdiction, your elevator inspector, or your elevator maintenance company to find out which version of the code your area has adopted). Whether or not the AHJ making the rules for your area has adopted a version of the code that requires an MCP be in place for your building, if you don’t want your elevator or escalator equipment to fail due to something preventable, you should adopt one.

Section of the (post-2000 versions of) ASME A17.1/CSA B44 code requires all MCPs to include a plan for examining, testing, cleaning, lubricating, and adjusting applicable conveyance system components at regular intervals.

Elevator Maintenance Control Programs must be written in compliance with the manufacturer’s specifications and the requirements of ASME A17.1/CSA B44 Section 8.6. They can be very specific to an elevator, escalator, or moving walk’s intended use.

Koshak shared with us the following points:

ASME A17.1/CSA B44 Section 8.6 requires:

  • Elevator personnel must be trained.
  • Every unit must have an elevator Maintenance Control Program (MCP).
  • Metrics must be used in determining the intervals between maintenance tasks.
  • A schedule of elevator maintenance must be provided.
  • Procedures for elevator maintenance tasks must be provided.
  • Records of all elevator maintenance, repairs, replacements, alterations, callbacks, oil logs, Firefighters’ Emergency Operation testing and others must be made.
  • Records must be available for a minimum of five years.

What type of equipment is covered?

For (electric) traction elevators – the kind that are suspended by ropes, belts, or other suspension means – an MCP would typically cover:

  • Pit equipment, including (but not limited to) stop buttons, final limit switches, counterweights, governor ropes, governor sheaves, GFCIs, sump pumps, lighting, ladders, and buffers;
  • Hoistway equipment, including (but not limited to) lighting, directional limit switches, final limit switches, door locks, door operation, leveling controls, overhead clearance, car and counterweight roller guides, rails and brackets, ventilation, and smoke detectors;
  • Machine room equipment, including (but not limited to) elevator machines, brakes, lighting, ventilation, fire suppression equipment, fire protection, combustible equipment storage and disposal, GFCIs, governors, controllers, proper guarding, and trap doors;
  • Cab equipment, including (but not limited to) car top inspection buttons, stop buttons, proper guarding, safeties, emergency telephones and 2-way communication devices, door operating equipment (door screens, door protection, etc.), floor selection buttons, directional indication devices, handrails, ADA-required elevator equipment or devices, and Firefighters’ Operation Systems.
  • Hall equipment, including (but not limited to) Firefighters’ Operation Systems, call buttons, directional indication devices, and position indicators.

For hydraulic elevators – the kind that are moved up and down the hoistway by a column of pressurized oil – an MCP would include (but not be limited to) everything applicable listed above, and would also include hydraulic valve systems, pumping units, pistons, tanks and reservoirs, additional smoke detectors, additional fire suppression systems, and other equipment specific to hydraulic elevators.

For escalators and moving walks, a typical MCP would include (but not be limited to) safety switches, clearances, demarcation lighting, handrail safety switches (including inlet switches), step alignment, skirt alignment, lubrication, walk on / walk off plates (to ensure they are securely fastened), chains, chain sprockets, and brakes.

Who should have an MCP?

All building owners and managers should have an MCP for each of the elevators, escalators, and moving walks in their building. Even if your local AHJ follows a version of the ASME code prior to the 2000 edition, it’s very much to your benefit to have an MCP in place. You don’t want to discover your elevator, escalator, or moving walk has been put out of service for something that could have been prevented.

ElevatorInfo recently published an article on the importance of periodic maintenance for elevator systems. Regular elevator maintenance checks lead to prolonged equipment life, increased cost efficiency, and improved travel times. Periodic maintenance is equally important for escalators and moving walks.

Who develops an MCP?

MCPs are typically developed by the elevator/conveyance equipment manufacturer or by an elevator consultant. Once you have one in place, your contracted elevator and escalator maintenance company is responsible for following that plan.

Where are MCPs stored?

ASME code requires elevator maintenance records and repair/replacement records must be available for viewing on site in the machine room, either physically stored in the building, or in some cases, available electronically. Your AHJ and local code requirements may require one or the other; contact your AHJ for details.

Final Thoughts

While adopting an elevator Maintenance Control Plan won’t stop every instance of a passenger getting stuck in an elevator, it is the most practical and proactive step that building owners and managers can take to reduce unplanned downtime for their elevators, escalators, moving walks, or other conveyances. Remember – the riding public relies on your equipment to get them safely and efficiently to the important places they need to go.

Contact ElevatorInfo to be put in touch with a local elevator maintenance company that can help you set up an MCP.