A stuck elevator isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it surely is a nuisance. It is hard to believe, too, that elevators, which have been around for the past two centuries, still have this problem. Of course, elevators have been improved upon greatly over time, beginning with the first safety system installation in 1857 in case something went wrong. Today, even though these lift systems have become incredible advanced, as machinery that functions with the use of electricity and programming, they are prone to occasional errors and bugs.
Building codes and other requirements exist to limit unwanted elevator stops and shutdowns as much as possible through proper maintenance and care. These are regulated at the local level, and in the United States are controlled by laws set by city, town, county, or state governments. You can view these for all of the 50 states here: http://www.stateelevatorcode.com/
Guidelines for the design, construction, installation, operation, testing, inspection, maintenance, alteration, and repair of elevators are addressed in ASME A17.1-2016 - Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. This standard has long overseen the necessary recommendations for elevators, ever since its initial publication in 1921, and has undergone continuous updates to guarantee that its compliance leads to reliable installation and use of lifts.
International standards written and developed by ISO also address safety considerations for elevators and make efforts to prevent elevators from stopping accidentally. For example, ISO 7465:2007 - Passenger lifts and service lifts - Guide rails for lift cars and counterweights - T-type specifies the standard sizes and geometrical tolerances for guide rails that guide the movement of the elevator cars, act as counterweights, operate as stabilization, and are part of a safety system.
However, even with adherence to elevator construction, maintenance, and safety standards, there still exists the possibility that something might go wrong with the lift car or system that requires for it to pause operations for a period of time. Different reasons for this are stated in ISO 22201:2009 - Lifts (elevators) - Design and development of programmable electronic systems in safety-related applications for lifts (PESSRAL), which include different mechanical and electrical errors that could drastically impact its functioning in the future.
Because of these standards and regulations, elevators are safe, and the likelihood of harm in one is immensely low. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are an average of 27 fatalities per 18 billion uses annually. That means there’s a 0.00000015% chance of death in an elevator trip.
For any passenger who might have a fear of elevators, it is important to remember that laws and standards together ensure passenger safety. In addition, many beliefs about elevators are greatly misconceived. For example, some people have a fear of an elevator car cable snapping, plummeting them to the ground. However, in the hundreds of years that elevators have existed, even with past technology, this is only known to have happened once, in the Empire State Building, after a plane collided with the elevator cable in 1941. Even with this, the emergency auto brake was able to prevent the lift car from freefalling.
Additional international lift standards are available by searching the ANSI Webstore.