Elevators are truly a modern marvel, allowing us to ascend hundreds of feet in mere seconds, but they can also be a little scary if you think about how they work. In a tall building, you are in a small box rising over a deep shaft held up only by some cables.
Thankfully, today's elevators have plenty of features to ensure they are safe, but that doesn't mean they are without fault. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, elevators (and escalators) kill 30 people a year and injure a whopping 17,000. It turns out that one type of elevator is particularly unsafe because it could fall unexpectedly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled it, but some might still be in use out there so you always want to check the maker of the elevator you're in to be sure it's not the recalled one.
The model you want to be on the lookout for would have a plaque that says "Waupaca Elevator Co." The recalled elevators were installed between 1979 and 2008 and have a weight capacity of 450 or 500 pounds. Due to a defective gearbox, the elevators can drop to the bottom of the shaft. There are at least 15 reports of that happening, resulting in various injuries from cuts and scrapes, to broken bones, and sadly, one death.
The elevators are used residentially, so it is unlikely you will step in one in an office building, but if you are at someone's house and they have one, take the stairs instead. If you have one in your house, you might want to replace it. A second recall was issued on Waupaca elevators due to a gap between the elevator and the exterior door. Three children wound up getting stuck in the gap and one died from being crushed in it at a vacation home.
The CPSC says to place any Waupaca elevator out of service. Waupaca had been offering free inspections but they have since closed permanently and a different company acquired them.