Elevator and escalator injuries up, paper says

Associated Press
Published October 4, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - The number of injuries to people on elevators and escalators has increased by 60 percent since the state began privatizing their inspections, a newspaper reported on Monday.

State officials said the number of elevators and escalators has also jumped, however, accounting for part of the increase.

The state completed a shift to private inspectors in 2002, a move seen as good because it greatly increased the number of people available to do the inspections, from 28 staff inspectors before privatization to more than 200 certified private inspectors after.

The increased number of inspectors decreased the backlog in elevator and escalator inspections by 70 percent, but a backlog remains, with nearly a third of the state's 43,000-odd elevators and escalators showing no proof they've been inspected and certified annually, as the law requires, the Tallahassee Democrat reported Monday.

The number of accidents involving injuries went from 320 in fiscal year 2000-01, the full year before privatization, to 515 in the 2004-05 fiscal year that ended June 30, the newspaper reported.

But the state official who oversees the Bureau of Elevator Safety said Monday the increase in the number of elevators and escalators is a big reason for the jump in accidents. At the end of fiscal year 2000-01 there were 35,651 elevators and escalators. At the end of this past fiscal year there were 42,731, an increase of just under 20 percent.

"A good bit of the increase is due to ... the fact that the number of units in the market place has increased," said Geoff Luebkemann, director of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Hotels and Restaurants, which oversees the elevator bureau. "But also the increased awareness and more people involved in the process we feel has also contributed to the increase in reports."

Luebkemann said the majority of injury accidents are on escalators and are often the result of riders not riding safely.

The most common elevator injuries are from tripping when an elevator doesn't stop flush with the floor on which the door is opening.