I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to wait a few days after responding to a story that you hits close to home. This accident truly has many in the Chicago area asking the question of how could this happen. While the details are at best sketchy and the investigation continues I believe that it’s important to look at this accident in a way that we can learn from and take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If you’re not familiar with the article feel free to click here to read more about it.
Starting with the accident, I have no doubt in my mind that this accident would have been prevented or never would have happened had the mom been watching her children. Let me also place a disclaimer on this before I have every legislator, attorney, media channel in the state contacting me. This is a blog post, an opinion article and should be interpreted as such: nothing more, nothing less. The conclusions and assumptions are my own presented in a manor in which we can improve or prevent future accidents like this from happening in the future.
Learning Points, How To Prevent - Let’s start off with the mom. I’d like to think that had the child been watched more closely the accident wouldn’t have happened. Yes terrible accident, yes kids do stupid stuff, yes the smaller they are the more they need to be watched. I know I’ve got three boys and back when they were small there was a five year period when the only time I was not looking out for them was after they fell asleep. From the time they woke up to the time they went to bed, it was part of my responsibility to watch out for them. With the above said, the worst that this little boy should have been subjected to getting stuck inside the elevator by his own demise of flipping the run stop switch. The inside doors should never have opened allowing the toddler to fall between the elevator and the shaft wall, down into the elevator pit. If the elevator was outside the unlocking zone a door restrictor would have prevented the elevator doors from opening. Visit www.eesf.org to find out how you can teach your kids the importance of elevator and escalator safety.
The Building/Elevator Owner - The bottom line is that there are more building/elevator owners out there that do their own maintenance or just call elevator contractors when the elevator is not working. This is ugly, unsafe and against the law. For building/elevator owners that are reading this, no matter if you are in the suburbs or the City of Chicago you need a Maintenance Control Program and a licensed elevator company with mechanics that perform it. The old saying it’s too expensive or I can’t afford it is also crap. The town where I work pays $114.00 for maintenance a month for two elevators. If you think $114.00 a month is expensive just wait until you get your insurance renewal after an accident. The premium increase will most likely be nine to ten times what the cost of maintenance is. And remember that any accident that happens stays on your record for five years. You need to rely on good elevator contractors to make sure your elevator equipment is safe. The state of Illinois has quite a few of them. If you’re looking for a good source for contractors in the State of Illinois visit www.cea-online.org.
Elevator Contractors /Mechanics - We see it every day, the balance to keep customers happy, make elevator improvement recommendations as well as make elevators safer is difficult. However if we see something that’s unsafe and needs to be locked down it’s all of our responsibility to make sure that happens even if we loose a customer because of it. If we all take a stand these guys won’t have anyone else to turn to. I also realize that there’s a balance of common sense and elevator upgrades that are required by the elevator code. It can be expensive to upgrade your elevator, bottom line. No more open orders, put everything in writing and make sure that you create a paper trail showing that you’ve notified the building/elevator owner of the deficient items that need to be taken care of and that they are not doing it. It’s not going to keep you out of a lawsuit should an accident occur but it should minimize your liability.
Elevator Inspectors - You guys get a great deal of respect when you walk into a building. It’s like you’ve got a special badge and permission to make sure the elevator is safe which honestly you do. Use this power to make elevators safer. Work with contractors to show what needs attention; Code Data Plates, Maintenance Control Plans, Door Restrictors, ADA Telephones, Light Curtains, Run Stop Key Switches, Unintended Movement Devices, Plunger Gripper, equipment upgrades etc.
State Legislators – Illinois SB149 Extension to 2015 - We lost the fight on this one back in 2009. All my sixty plus letters sent via fax and mail to our state legislators attempting to bring attention to the seriousness of extending it got me nothing but a continuous stream of request for donation postcards which I still get today. Yes, state legislators who rescinded the Illinois Safety Act from 2010 to 2015 this accident may have been prevented had there been a door restrictor installed which should have been installed by 2010 under the original elevator safety act. To the best of my knowledge one was not installed. While understandably this was a freak accident, it may have happened to a grown adult in the same situation had the landing doors been opened inside the elevator. After writing about this in 2009 it did little but upset a few legislators who listened more to condo board presidents and building owners who did not feel the need to invest in elevator safety improvements and elevator safety act. I hope that we don’t see another mad dash by legislators to extend it another five years before 2015 roles around.
There are hundreds of elevator advocates out there who volunteer countless hours to make vertical transportation safer. Trust me on this, the elevator code is intended to prevent accidents like this from happening and by working together we can all do our part to ensure it doesn’t.