Elevator Accidents on the Rise

Edited by Admin
Elevator Accidents on the Rise in Ontario

How many elevator rides have you taken this week? This month? This year? Elevators are so much a part of our urban lives that we would probably have difficulty answering the questions. We rarely think twice about jumping on an elevator, and many of us do it several times a day. Considering that there are thousands of residential and office elevators in service in Ontario, it’s reassuring that deaths and serious injuries related to elevator use are rare. But in fact, data shows that each year approximately ten permanent injuries and one death can be attributed to elevator accidents in the province. And statistics maintained by the body that oversees inspections of elevators, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TTSA), show that incidents involving elevators are on the rise.


What Goes Wrong


An elevator is a complex piece of machinery. Elevators are usually powered by electrical motor systems that either drive traction cables and counterweight systems or pump hydraulic fluid to power piston systems. In roped systems, the car is raised and lowered by traction steel ropes which are looped around a sheave, a type of pulley. The sheave is connected to an electric motor which raises or lowers the car depending on which way the sheave rotates, and a counterweight is used to balance the weight of the car. In hydraulic systems, a pump, powered by an electric motor, forces fluid (usually oil) from a tank into a cylinder which pushes a piston upward, lifting the elevator car. To lower the car, a valve is opened, allowing fluid to return to the reservoir and the car to gradually descend.


All elevators are equipped with safety systems. However, malfunctions can occur. While fatal incidents are rare, when they occur it is usually due to falls. In 2019, a man who was working as a window washer fell down the elevator shaft at the CBC building in downtown Toronto. Three years earlier, a worker at the One King West hotel in that city fell to his death in a similar way. In 2009, an elevator technician attempting to free passengers from an elevator stuck in the TD Bank tower in Toronto died when he fell ten storeys to his death.


Falls cause death or major injuries due to the distances involved. However, most elevator accidents are caused by issues such as:

  • Doors opening or closing at the wrong times, causing injuries to hands, arms, or legs.
  • Failure of the car to stop level with the floor, making it likely that passengers will trip while entering or exiting the elevator.
  • Elevator panels or roofs come loose, causing injuries.
  • Electrical systems short out, causing electric shocks or fires.
  • Abrupt stops which cause passengers to collide with one another or objects in the elevator car.


The types of injuries most often seen in elevator accidents range from minor cuts, scratches, and contusions to broken limbs, crushed fingers, head injuries, and spinal cord injuries. A TTSA report from 2017 detailed incidents such as a woman who tripped when the elevator failed arrive level with the floor and broke her nose and thumb, a man whose legs had to be amputated after they were caught between the car and the sill, several toddlers whose hands were crushed in doors that closed on them, and a woman whose finger was cut when the metal control panel fell out of the wall of the car. One elderly woman had a traumatic day when staff failed to realize that she was trapped in an elevator; she spent 20 hours alone in the enclosed space. Other incidents were less serious; one man fell over after he tried to kick a dog’s leash into the car before the door closed, another tripped and fell, dropping several pies, and in a bizarre incident, a valet forgot to put a car in “Park” and watched as it rolled into the elevator doors.


Who Is Responsible?


According to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, building owners are responsible for ensuring that the elevators operating on their premises adhere to safety regulations and standard and are maintained in good working order. However, depending on the circumstances of the accident, there may be other parties who could be held liable, including:


  • The designer of the elevator
  • The manufacturer of the elevator
  • The installer of the elevator
  • The company that maintains the elevator
  • The property management company


If you have been injured in an incident involving an elevator, contact a personal injury law firm as soon as possible. A good personal injury lawyer can help you to ascertain whether or not negligence can be proven and whether or not you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries.


Your first meeting with a personal injury lawyer in Ontario is free of charge, and most of these lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they do not charge hourly fees, but rather will receive a percentage of any damages you recover – they don’t get paid until you get paid. Contact a personal injury lawyer today and learn more about your options.