Going Up? Prioritizing Elevator Safety in Schools and Hospitals

Administrators must make elevator safety a priority through maintenance protocols, equipment upgrades, usage policies, and emergency preparedness plans.

Going Up? Prioritizing Elevator Safety in Schools and Hospitals

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For staff and students in schools and universities, and vulnerable patients in hospitals, a single elevator incident can cause major disruptions and endanger lives. Without diligent safety measures, elevator systems are at higher risk for mechanical failures, accidents, and injuries.

A proactive, comprehensive approach to elevator maintenance is critical to preventing accidents, ensuring accessibility, maintaining service, and most importantly, safeguarding human lives in institutional settings.

Managers and administrators have an obligation to make elevator safety a priority through maintenance protocols, equipment upgrades, usage policies, and emergency preparedness plans.

Implementing Regular Elevator Maintenance Programs

For all campus buildings, staying on top of maintenance is the basis for keeping elevators safe. Qualified technicians should perform monthly inspections, thoroughly servicing all mechanical components and documenting part conditions in detail. Doing regular maintenance can catch potential issues early, before they can escalate into potentially dangerous problems. Keeping detailed maintenance records over time also helps administrators make smart decisions about necessary repairs or proactive replacements of aging parts. Regular upkeep can help to spot little problems before they become big headaches.

The best advice is to pay attention to anything you can see, hear, and feel. A simple thing like a horizontal scratch on the door can be an indication that the door equipment has become misaligned – potentially causing more serious problems later down the road. Any visible damage inside the cabin or on control panels, whether from vandalism or normal wear and tear, should also be addressed before it impacts functionality.

Likewise, hearing unusual noises from the mechanism or feeling uneven or jerky starts and stops can indicate potential issues that often get more expensive to fix the longer they are ignored.

For elevators that are over 20 years old, campuses should strongly consider undertaking modernization projects. While consistent maintenance can keep even older elevators running safely, modernizations allow any campus to upgrade to the latest tech. That includes electronic systems to constantly check for mechanical problems, two-way communication so people inside can call security, and upgraded door sensors and controls to stop doors from accidentally closing on someone. Even though old elevators can run well with regular care, renovations can help add peace of mind for campus managers.

Having clear rules about using elevators and implementing supervision policies further promotes safety, especially on campuses with young students or patients. Making sure posted capacity limits are followed, requiring teachers to supervise young riders, and setting up orderly ways to get in and out helps avoid accidents and injuries. Schools in particular can teach kids and staff alike how to behave in ways that support ongoing maintenance, such as speaking up right away if there’s a problem, not horsing around or blocking doors, and following emergency plans.

Even with excellent maintenance, accidents can still happen. So, campuses need emergency response plans which can include things like calling their repair company immediately and evacuating everyone inside a stuck elevator calmly and efficiently. For added protection, it is helpful to post clear usage rules and supervision policies, train staff and students on procedures, and share detailed emergency plans.

Adherence to Elevator Safety Codes and Standards

On top of regular maintenance checks, elevators need to follow certain codes and standards that vary by state and institution. For example, hospital elevator systems have to meet strict regulations set forth by organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and local building codes. Take California’s Building Code. Section 3009 lays out special earthquake rules for hospital elevators, like:

  • Seismic switches are connected to backup power to prevent unsafe operation after a seismic event
  • Annunciators to indicate if a seismic switch loses power
  • “Go-slow” speeds are enabled after seismic activation until inspection
  • Additional sensors on elevator governors/sheaves to halt cars if dislodged

When qualified technicians perform monthly testing, it ensures that elevators adhere to these guidelines, so people can ride safely and legally. Hospitals should have clear compliance plans referencing applicable codes and standards, and maintain thorough documentation of all inspections and tests confirming their elevator systems meet the latest regulatory requirements. Staying current with codes through continuing education and partnering with knowledgeable vendors helps hospitals maintain compliance and fulfill their obligations for safe elevator systems that protect patients and personnel.

Meeting Elevator Accessibility Requirements

For contained schools and sprawling university campuses, comprehensive safety includes meeting ADA accessibility standards. Accessibility features such as lowered control panels, tactile buttons, and adequate interior dimensions enable equal access for all individuals. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that private businesses and public spaces provide “reasonable accommodations,” which extends to elevator accessibility. Implementing ADA features not only ensures the safety of disabled users but enhances the overall safety for a wide range of users, including those with strollers or carrying packages. By viewing compliance upgrades as an opportunity to add features that benefit everyone, administrators can maximize the impact of their investments in physical improvements.

Hospitals have extra accessibility factors to consider, such as vulnerable patients, infections, and urgent medical needs. Backup power from generators, battery packs, and uninterruptible supplies prevents shutdowns that could trap patients between floors. Customized features like gentle acceleration/deceleration, more interior room for stretchers and wheelchairs, and longer door times optimize operation specifically for safe, comfortable patient transport. Elevators should connect to hospital emergency systems allowing urgent codes to override normal use.

Although requiring substantial diligence and investment, proactive elevator safety provides immense protection and reliability for those in institutional settings. Schools, colleges, and hospitals all have distinct needs, however, comprehensive strategies for maintenance, equipment, usage policies, and emergency prep allow administrators to maximize elevator safety across their facilities.

Staying on top of all these factors is key to preventing accidents, ensuring accessibility, maintaining service, and above all, protecting human lives.


Jack O’Shea is the owner and president of Start Elevator, an elevator service and modernization company based in New York City.

NOTE: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to Campus Safety.

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