Elevator and Escalator Hazards for Children

Young boy with mother on escalator
Sean Justice / Getty Images

Depending on where your family lives, works, and shops, you may use elevators and escalators on a regular basis and may not give it a second thought.

While they are safe, reports of injuries likely suggest that while you may not have to think twice and use the stairs, you should at least think about your child's safety before letting him or her ride on an elevator or escalator.

Escalator Dangers for Children

There have been at least 77 reports of entrapment—when hands, feet, or shoes (mostly clogs and slide sandals) get trapped in the escalator—since 2006.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that there were about 11,000 injuries on escalators in 2007, mostly from falls.

Your kids can still ride the escalator, but be sure they do it safely. They should:

  • Tie their shoelaces before getting on the escalator
  • Stand in the center of the escalator, face forward, hold a parent's hand, and step off at the end
  • Refrain from sitting or playing on the escalator—it should not be treated as an amusement park ride

Perhaps most importantly, learn where the emergency shutoff button is so that you can turn off the escalator if someone gets entrapped while riding.

Elevator Dangers for Children

Elevators can be dangerous too. Although most injuries and deaths involve the people who work on and maintain elevators, passengers can get hurt too. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, on average, about six people a year die in and around elevators. This includes about one child under the age of 10 years old each year. Many others are injured.

One 2007 study found that about 2,000 children each year were injured in and around elevators, with the most common injuries occurring when the elevator doors closed on a body part, such as a finger, hand, or arm.

Of course, the most serious injuries, including those that were life-threatening, involved falls into empty elevator shafts, including when the elevator doors opened and there was no elevator car to get into. Deaths and serious injuries involving elevators also occurred when people get struck by the elevator between floors, fall when trying to get out of a stuck elevator, or when an elevator collapses.

What You Need to Know About Elevator and Escalator Dangers

To keep your kids safe when riding an elevator, be sure to:

  • Watch young children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, as they get on and off an elevator
  • Teach your kids that they shouldn't try to stop an elevator door from closing with their hands or arms
  • Teach older kids and teens to stay in the elevator car if it gets stuck and wait for assistance (push the alarm button or call for help using the elevator phone), instead of trying to get out on their own, even if the elevator door is open and they can see the next floor
  • Consider having your child carry a cell phone if he regularly rides in an elevator without supervision so that he can call for help if the elevator gets stuck and the alarm button or elevator phone is not working
3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Know the Steps to Safety When Using Escalators, Some shoes more likely than others to pose risk.

  2. Center for Construction Research and Training. Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators and Escalators - a Report of the Center to Protect Workers' Rights.

  3. O'Neil J, Steele GK, Huisingh C, Smith GA. Elevator-Related Injuries to Children in the United States, 1990 Through 2004. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2007;46(7):619-625. doi:10.1177/0009922807300232

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.