Fact Sheet

Elevators, Escalators and Stairways

Elevators, escalators and stairways, as with any pathway, need to be kept well-lit, in good working order, and free of trash and debris.

Elevators

Entering and exiting an elevator can be hazardous, particularly if the floors are not level. If the elevator doors start to close, there exists the potential for a hand, leg or piece of clothing to be caught. It is important to maintain the mechanics so that the elevator cars stop level with the floors. Employees should report any cars and the floors where they do not so that they may be adjusted.

The safest doors are ones with protective edges designed to reopen when touched. Make certain that the “door open” button, which reverses the doors to allow a slow moving person the time to enter or exit), has an easily understood icon or graphic symbol, to avoid someone pushing “door close” by mistake.

A clearly marked alarm button inside the car should ring when pushed to signal that there is a problem with the elevator. In addition, each car should be equipped with a phone to call for help. Both of the safety features should be checked during regular maintenance.

Regular Maintenance

Elevators have many moving parts that must be serviced on a regular basis to remain safe. The entity should have a regular maintenance schedule and a procedure to report malfunctions. Maintenance includes lubrication of moving parts, and repairing or replacing faulty or non-operating components. Temporary signs, barriers and operator-control covers should be used to prevent unauthorized escalator use during maintenance operations.

Safety Code

According to the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation, History of Elevators, “the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators an American National Standard is the base document for elevators. It is accompanied by A17.2, which is a guide for inspecting elevators, and A17.3, which is a recommended code for existing elevators. This later is necessary since most codes, not only elevator, are seldom retroactive and a guide for minimum safety considerations is considered necessary given that elevators up to 100 years old are still in everyday use.

Code rules are enforced by local jurisdictions through building departments, private inspectors and the elevator companies themselves. Safety violations can result in fines and, in extreme cases, shutting the equipment down. Most inspectors are members of the National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities (NAESA) and are certified as Qualified Elevator Inspectors (QEI).”

Escalators

Clothing, feet, fingers, hair and debris can get caught at the edge between the stair tread and the side panel or between two treads when they flatten. A stop button, located at both the top and bottom of the escalator, allows passengers to stop the stairs to protect trapped person from further injury. In such an emergency, the moving stairs come to a sudden halt, jolting riders. If people aren’t holding on to the rail, they can be knocked off their feet. Signs that remind riders to stand away from the edge and hold on to the rail can help keep employees and other riders safe. Escalators can be retrofitted with a strip of brush along the side panels just above where it meets the stairs; this prevents most objects from getting into the small gap.

Regular Maintenance

Like elevators, escalators have many moving parts that must be serviced on a regular basis to remain safe. The entity should have a regular maintenance schedule and a procedure to report malfunctions. Maintenance includes lubrication of moving parts, and repairing or replacing faulty or non-operating components. Temporary signs, barriers and operator control covers should be used to prevent unauthorized escalator use during maintenance operations.

Safety Code

According to the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation, History of Escalators, “All escalators in the United States are manufactured and installed to be in compliance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, ASME A17.l. This Safety Code, presently known as the "ASME A17.1 Code. The Code is updated every three years. ASME A17.1 Code requires that elevators and escalators be inspected regularly by specially trained and qualified Inspectors.

This is in addition to the regular maintenance that owners commonly contract with various elevator/escalator maintenance companies. Qualified inspectors are usually state employees in the department that issues permits for erecting, original acceptance and continued operation of the elevator/escalator equipment. Many inspectors belong to the National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities (NAESA) and are certified Qualified Elevator Inspectors (QEI).”

Stairways

There must be a stairway or ladder at points of access where there is an elevation of 19 inches or more. At least one point of access must be kept clear. Rails must be able to withstand a force of 200 pounds. Stairways with four or more risers (steps), or higher than 30 inches, must be equipped with at least one handrail. Stairways with four or more risers or more than 30 inches high must have a stair rail along each unprotected side or edge. Stairways landings must be at least 30 inches deep and 22 inches wide at every 12 feet or less of vertical rise. Stairway parts must be free of projections that may cause injuries or snag clothing.

In case of fire, use the stairs.

Building codes require exit stairwells to provide a good measure of protection in case of fire. Stairwell doors are heavy and usually totally enclosed and well lighted and designed to protect people from smoke and fire. In addition, on stairs you control the option of going up or down to avoid the fire and smoke.

Elevator shafts are often not sealed and act as a chimney, thereby attracting the smoke. Most modern elevators are programmed to automatically return to the ground floor when the alarm is triggered. They will shut down and remain available only for firefighters.

Only trained specialists know how to safely remove passengers or restart the elevator. Chances of the elevator falling are extremely rare as any one of the many required cables can individually hold a fully loaded elevator in place.

Exit plans for handicapped individuals should be incorporated into the organization’s emergency plans. Some options are having more able-bodied employees assigned to carry people down the stairs, or indicating a room to congregate where a point-person from the staff will hang a flag out the window to indicate to firefighters that special help is required for people in that room to exit the building. Those in authority may direct otherwise and their instructions should be followed.

Resources

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

Elevators, Escalators and Stairways Checklist

History of Elevators, Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation

Recommendations to Staff Using Elevators