Safety and OSHA News

Worker injured when car falls three floors in parking garage

It’s easy to fall into routines at work. Things seem to work the same every day. But what happens when, just once, something doesn’t work as it usually does? That’s what happened at a Manhattan parking garage.

A worker at a Central Parking Garage in New York City was waiting to drive a car from the fifth floor into an elevator to bring it to ground level.

It’s something parking garage attendants at this and many other similar garages do dozens of times every day. Except this time, when the elevator doors opened, the elevator car wasn’t there.

The car plunged from the fifth floor to between the first and second floors.

Somehow, the worker wasn’t killed. In fact, he was able to exit the vehicle on his own through its sunroof.

He was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He’s expected to be OK.

Authorities are investigating. They haven’t attributed the incident to human or mechanical error.

New York fire officials closed down a second elevator at that parking garage to make sure it was OK. Patrons weren’t able to access their cars during the shutdown.

A similar incident happened at another New York City parking garage about a year ago. The worker in that incident was also not seriously injured.

One resident who keeps her car in the garage told a local TV station she wasn’t surprised that the incident occurred. She says someone is repairing one of the elevators at the garage at least once a month.

What happens when routine is broken?

Safety pros can use this incident as a toolbox talk. The topic: Constant safety awareness.

Ask workers to think of things that they usually take for granted at work that could change one day and create a hazard.

Normally, when the doors of that elevator in the parking garage open, there’s an elevator car waiting. But just once, something different happened, putting the worker in danger.

Remind workers they have to keep alert for changes in their daily work routines that could create an unexpected hazard.

This story also provides a reminder for companies. If the reports from the parking garage patron are correct and the elevators had been experiencing frequent trouble, that may have been a near-miss warning to the garage company.

Any piece of machinery that experiences frequent breakdowns can be a safety hazard. Machine repairs and replacement are expensive, but the alternative is suffering an incident like this in which an employee is injured and the business is, for all purposes, shut down during an investigation.

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