How Prevalent Are Elevator Accidents in the Construction Industry?
Any job working from heights is bound to be a dangerous one. In order to prevent devastating injuries or death, workers and their employers must follow strict guidelines.
Falls from elevator shafts are particularly common in the construction industry. In its latest Quarterly Data Report, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) reported a steady increase in elevator-related construction fatalities from 2003-2016. While the numbers fluctuated from one year to the next, 2003 saw a total of 14 deaths, but 2015 had the highest number of deaths during that period at 37, with a significant dip in 2016 at 28.
Fatalities common among elevator workers
The report focused primarily on data from 2011-2016, when 286 elevator-related deaths occurred across several industries. Approximately 145 of them occurred in the construction industry, with falls to lower levels being the leading cause of death. Workers responsible for installing and/or repairing elevators were the most likely to fall.
Among falls to lower levels:
- Nearly 50 percent occurred at heights of more than 30 feet. Another 16 percent occurred at 21-30 feet and 15 percent between 16-20 feet.
- Nearly 45 percent of fatal falls were caused by multiple traumatic injuries and disorders. More than 20 percent were caused by head injuries and nearly 18 percent were caused by internal injuries. Other causes of death included asphyxia, strangulation, and suffocation (9 percent), as well as electrocution (about 4 percent).
- The majority of falls (38 percent) happened while workers were assembling or dismantling elevator components. Nearly 19 percent of falls occurred while workers were operating heavy equipment, and more than 18 percent during routine repairs and maintenance.
Aside from falls, elevator-related deaths were caused by workers being caught in or between objects/equipment (more than 25 percent), being struck in a roadway (9 percent), being struck by objects or equipment (nearly 5 percent) or being electrocuted (nearly 5 percent).
Survivors sustained serious non-fatal injuries
Nonfatal elevator-related injuries have declined from 380 (in 2003) to 280 (in 2016), with a significant spike of 920 injuries in 2012. Approximately 2,410 injuries occurred between 2011-2016, with about 46 percent requiring at least 31 days of time away from work for recovery. Most injuries occurred among electrical and wiring contractors (780 incidents) and electricians (700 incidents).
More than a quarter of the injuries were attributed to workers being caught in/between objects or equipment. Falls to lower levels accounted for more than 23 percent of injuries and struck by objects/equipment accidents accounted for more than 20 percent. Other elevator-related accidents that resulted in injuries included:
- Workers falling on same level – about 14 percent
- Workers being struck against objects or equipment – 5 percent
- Overexertion – more than 2 percent
- Roadway incidents – more than 1 percent
Workers who survived elevator accidents were most likely to sustain injuries from trauma or other disorders (27 percent), bruises and contusions (22 percent), broken bones (about 19 percent), and sprains, strains, and tears (nearly 19 percent).
Recovering from these injuries could require X-rays, surgery, pain and inflammation medication, and months of physical therapy. If you’ve been hurt on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for damages in addition to collecting workers’ compensation.
An experienced construction accident attorney can sit down with you and discuss your legal options. Perhaps a third party was responsible for your accident. This may include a manufacturer of equipment or materials, or another company involved in work site.
To learn more, contact us to set up your free consultation.