Train Staff How to Respond When Passenger-Filled Elevator Breaks Down
If your site has an elevator, it’s important that your staff know the proper steps to take when a passenger-filled elevator breaks down. If your staff doesn’t take the proper steps and passengers get injured during the breakdown, you could get sued, warns risk management consultant Rose Kugler.
In 2008, a tragedy occurred at a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing complex where residents had complained of recurring problems with the elevators. A 5-year-old boy had fallen down an elevator shaft after the elevator had become lodged between floors. The boy had tried to escape through the opened elevator door by jumping to the floor below, but he lost his footing and fell to the bottom of the shaft. Since the accident, NYCHA has committed to an extensive elevator modernization program to rehabilitate and install new elevators at select developments citywide.
But even with an increased emphasis on safety, accidents involving elevators can still occur. As recently as Dec. 30, 2012, an elderly man in a NYCHA development in East Harlem suffered injuries when an elevator door closed on him. At the very least, you can minimize problems by training your staff on how to handle an elevator breakdown involving passengers. We’ll give you a Model Memo: Inform Staff of Elevator Breakdown Procedures, which you can adapt and use at your site.
Use Memo to Train Staff
First, develop elevator breakdown procedures, if you haven’t already done so, says Kugler. Then, choose staff members to be contact people for elevator breakdown situations, she adds. Because contact people will only be calling the elevator service company and keeping in contact with passengers, any staff member could be a contact person. (If your staff members work in shifts, choose a staff member from each shift to be a contact person.)
Train these staff members on how to handle an elevator breakdown by giving them a memo spelling out your procedures for such a situation. Kugler recommends that you give copies of the memo to all staff members. That way, if a designated contact person isn’t available when an elevator breaks down, other staff members can help, she explains. Your memo, like our Model Memo, should spell out the following procedures:
Call elevator service company. Say that upon finding out about an elevator breakdown, the contact person should immediately call the elevator service company to notify it of the problem, advises Kugler. Instruct the contact person to tell the elevator service company your site’s address, the location of the broken-down elevator, the apparent nature of the problem, and, if applicable, that there are passengers stuck inside the elevator, she says. And instruct them to ask the service company when a technician will arrive. Include the service company’s telephone number in your memo so that the contact person has easy access to it, she adds.
Also tell the contact person not to try to fix the elevator on his own, warns Kugler. Elevators are complex machines that even your maintenance staff members probably aren’t trained to fix, she explains. If a staff member tries to fix the elevator, he could make the problem worse or violate the service contract you have with your elevator service company, she points out [Memo, par. 1].
Reassure passengers. Tell the contact person to promptly try to communicate with passengers stuck in the elevator, suggests Kugler. Usually, the contact person can communicate with passengers by using the elevator’s telephone or intercom system. If your elevators don’t have a telephone or intercom or if the telephone or intercom doesn’t work, the contact person should go to the floor nearest to where the elevator is stuck and speak loudly to the passengers.
Instruct the contact person to tell the passengers that a technician from the service company is on his way and when he’s expected to arrive, says Kugler. Also instruct him to assure passengers that they’re safe, she adds. People who are stuck in elevators can become anxious and suffer heart attacks or other serious medical problems, she notes. If your contact person assures passengers in a calm yet assertive way that the situation is under control, they’ll feel calmer, she explains. And they’ll have little reason later to claim that you exacerbated the problem, she adds [Memo, par. 2].
If your elevator has a telephone, program it to call the management office or your site’s security guard, Kugler suggests. Also, consider programming the telephone to call the elevator service company or an answering service after hours, she adds. And have your maintenance staff regularly check the telephones or intercoms to make sure they work, she recommends.
Warn passengers not to fix or exit elevator. Tell your contact person to warn passengers stuck in the elevator not to try to fix it themselves. And tell your contact person that if the elevator has broken down with its doors partially open, he should warn the passengers not to try to force open the doors, Kugler says. Also, instruct the contact person to inform passengers that they could get seriously injured if the elevator starts moving while they’re trying to get out, she says [Memo, par. 3].
Give passengers frequent updates. Instruct the contact person to keep the passengers updated on the status of the repair. Keeping passengers in the loop will make them feel confident that the situation is under control, Kugler explains [Memo, par. 4].
Rose Kugler: President, Risk Innovations, 1202-N 75th St., #253, Downers Grove, IL 60516; (630) 725-1770; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.riskinnovations.com.
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