Elevator Accidents in Houston, Part 2

Last week, this blog discussed some past elevator accidents in Houston and beyond. This post reports on more recent elevator accidents and describes staps the state has taken to reduce elevator accidents.

In December, 2011, a housekeeper fell to her death down an elevator shaft at a hotel in San Antonio. In 2009, a woman was seriously injured when an elevator in the 717 Texas building in Houston fell four stories before the emergency brake kicked in. This was not the only elevator incident at the Houston high-rise. Two people were injured a month later when an elevator dropped from the 25th floor to the 23rd floor.

In light of accidents like these, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation recommended revisions to the state’s Health and Safety Code. These changes included:

  • Giving the executive director the authority to issue emergency orders and to seek civil penalties when an elevator threatens public safety
  • Giving staff have more flexibility to inspect and investigate when an imminent and significant danger exists
  • Giving the executive director discretion when granting compliance delays, rather than requiring them
  • Giving the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation enhanced rulemaking authority to set standards for the availability of manuals and documents
  • Requiring building owners to report accidents within 24 hours rather than 72 hours (the previous requirement)
  • Requiring compliance certificates for all regulated equipment to be publicly posted
  • Requiring building owners to submit inspection reports within 30 days rather than 60 days (the previous requirement)
  • Requiring elevator inspectors to comply with continuing education requirements
  • Requiring elevator inspectors to issue inspection reports within five days, rather than 10 days (the previous requirement)
  • The goal of these and other improvements is to increase public confidence in the elevators, escalators and similar equipment.

In spite of the strengthened state code, accidents continue to occur. Last month, a worker in the DFW area was seriously injured in an elevator accident in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The worker was in the elevator shaft performing a repair when the elevator descended on top of him. It was not clear how far he fell.

This is the second post in this two-part blog about elevator accidents in Houston and in Texas.