Elevator Safety and Accident Prevention

August 29, 2019

In light of a recent tragic and highly publicized accident in the U.S., the National Elevator Industry, Inc. (NEII) feels it is important to reaffirm the many measures our industry undertakes to provide a consistently high standard of safety.

Safety is the Elevator and Escalator Industry’s First Priority

NEII and its member companies are committed to the promotion of safe building transportation and continue to aggressively work toward improving and ensuring adoption of stringent safety codes, developing safer products and helping to educate the public on safe riding practices. While we cannot prevent every accident, we strongly believe that accidents such as these should never happen, and that it is our responsibility – from manufacturers, owners, managers and inspectors to the riding public – to uphold this overall commitment to safety.

Elevator Safety Codes Ensure Safe Equipment, Regular Maintenance and Inspections

The industry does have stringent codes in place to help ensure the safety of its products, and to make certain that machinery is maintained and inspected according to its respective codes. In addition, NEII fully supports licensing requirements for elevator and escalator mechanics across North America. 

Safety Features Keep Elevators From Moving While Doors are Open

Basic protections from elevators moving while their doors are open have in fact been in place since the 1920s. These simple electromechanical systems, which have continued to be improved over the years, are known as “interlocks” in later elevator codes, and exist on virtually all elevators in operation in the U.S. today. To better protect passengers from possible harm, the 1980 edition of the ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators implemented a provision that would lock the elevator car doors (door restrictors) when the car was more than 18 inches above or below the floor. This distance was recently changed to 7 inches. 

In 2000, the first harmonized edition of the ASME A17.1/CSA B44 code for new elevator installations was published it has incorporated the latest advances in technology, making additional protection possible and providing redundant protections against unintended elevator car movement. Elevators installed under the 2000 and later editions of the code contain these safety features:

  • A means to detect unintended car movement with the doors open  due to a failure in the drive machine, motor, brake, gearing, control system, hydraulic pressure, etc. that will immediately stop the car;
  • An independent, secondary emergency brake that is activated when unintended car movement is detected;
  • Application of this brake when a loss of power is detected; and
  • A requirement that the emergency brake be manually reset before the car is permitted to run again, requiring a qualified elevator mechanic to diagnose and correct the problem before the elevator is placed back in service.

For those elevators that predate the safety features introduced in the past 20 years, the ASME A17.3 Safety Code for Existing Elevators and Escalators contains basic requirements for rider safety in these older systems. These include requiring door restrictors and prohibiting the driving machine that moves the car from operating with passengers on the car if the elevator doors are not in a closed position. NEII has consistently advocated for the adoption of the ASME A17.3 within every jurisdiction nationally, to ensure that a designated minimum standard of safety is met, regardless of the age, model or manufacturer of the equipment.

Regular Inspections and Maintenance are Critical

As with any electrical and/or mechanical system, it is critical that elevators be inspected and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that these safety features are functional. The ASME A17.1/CSA B44 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators prescribes regular maintenance and periodic testing and inspection for all elevators. Of course, their success relies on building owners that retain adequate elevator maintenance, elevator contractors and technicians that are proficient in their work, and jurisdictions that require qualified elevator inspectors to help ensure the safety of the equipment. Proper preventive maintenance plays a critical role in eliminating the potential for equipment malfunctions and addressing any prospective difficulties.

Unfortunately, accidents can still occur even with all of these measures and the protections contained in our safety codes. This is why the NEII member companies remain committed to developing new technology to further enhance passenger protection in both new and old elevators. NEII remains a strong advocate of elevator and escalator safety by continually improving the systems in place to help ensure rider safety, endorsing the adoption of current model codes by local government agencies, and assisting our national and international code-writing bodies in the improvement of rules that affect the installation, maintenance and operation of this equipment.

As elevator technology continues to evolve, these safety codes also encourage the efficient and safe adoption of the latest technical developments, resulting in elevator equipment that remains on the leading edge of safety, innovation and reliability.  

Elevators Are One of the Safest Forms of Transportation

Though elevators are one of the safest forms of transportation with over 18 billion passenger trips per year in the United States alone, following simple guidelines can help further improve passenger safety. We encourage everyone to review these guidelines regularly for more information on these topics. Please visit the elevator and escalator safety pages on the NEII website at www.neii.org.

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, Thyssenkrupp Elevator Company and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org

About Nicole Van Velzen


With over 17 years of communications and marketing experience, Nicole Van Velzen joined NEII as the Director of Communications in August 2017. In this role, Ms. Van Velzen serves as a partner with NEII’s public relations firm to advance our mission through media and other outreach, manages the monthly Insider newsletter, increases awareness through social media channels, and works closely with NEII’s Communications Committee.