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Elevators Can Bring Injury to Seniors

Researcher urges installation of bigger buttons to stop closing doors

MONDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Over 2,600 senior citizens suffer serious elevator-related injuries each year in the United States, and three-quarters of them are women, according to the results of the first large-scale study of these events.

Slips, trips and falls accounted for more than half of the injuries, and about one-third were caused by elevator doors closing on a person. The third most common cause of injuries were those related to the wedging of walkers in elevator door openings, the researchers reported in the January issue of the Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection and Critical Care.

The study authors analyzed elevator-related injuries that were serious enough to send a person aged 65 years or older to an emergency department. Almost half of the injuries were "soft-tissue" injuries such as sprains and bruises, they noted.

"Elevator-related injuries are not accidental; they are easily preventable. Individuals of any age, but especially older adults, who often have vision or balance issues, should not stick an arm or leg or walker into the path of a closing elevator door," Greg Steele, associate professor of epidemiology in the department of public health at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

He had another suggestion to improve rider safety. "Elevator open buttons should be made twice the size of the other elevator buttons so they are not hard to find by passengers who want to stop the door from closing on an approaching individual," Steele said. "This would be very inexpensive to change because electronics don't have to be altered, just the button. Certainly all newly installed or updated elevators should have such buttons."

More information

National Elevator Industry, Inc., has details on elevator safety.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Indiana University School of Medicine, news release, February, 2010

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