Chair Cantwell Demands Swift Action on Residential Elevator Hazards at Confirmation Hearing for Consumer Product Safety Commission Nominees

Cantwell Slams CPSC Inaction on “Glaring Safety Problem” -- Known to Manufacturers and Commission -- “For Years”

July 28, 2021

Questioning comes in wake of recent tragic death of a seven-year-old in North Carolina vacation rental


WASHINGTON, D.C.—  During today’s hearing to consider the nominations of commissioners to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called on the nominees to take long-needed action to fix the safety hazards of residential elevators.  In 2019, Sen. Cantwell issued a report highlighting the CPSC’s inaction following the deaths and serious injuries suffered by children in residential elevators.


“This is a deadly safety problem that both manufacturers and the CPSC have been aware of for years,” Sen. Cantwell said.  “What’s worse, there is a common-sense fix that has not been implemented.”  




Two weeks ago, after news reported the tragedy of a child who was killed when trapped in the gap between the doors of a residential elevator in his family’s North Carolina vacation home rental, Sen. Cantwell immediately wrote to CPSC Acting Director Adler calling for immediate action to address the ongoing safety issue. In response, the CPSC wrote vacation rental companies, urging them to implement safety measures “in the hopes that you will join us in ensuring that children are safe in rentals on your platform.”


“This is not an adequate response to this glaring safety problem,” Sen. Cantwell said, referring to the CPSC letter to rental agencies. “We need…to take immediate action on this. So I'd like to ask each of the nominees here. Will you make this a priority? And what steps do you think we need to do to present to correct this known hazard?”


Below is the transcript of that exchange: 

Mr. Hoehn-Saric: Thank you, Senator, for the question. Since 1981, approximately 4,600 injuries and I believe over 23 deaths have been associated with residential elevators. Clearly this is a problem. It's been a problem for a long time, and the agency has taken only limited action here, as you pointed out. I agree, and I commit to you, if confirmed, to work with the staff, work with my fellow Commissioners, to put together a plan and bring that back to you and your staff about how to best move forward to address this issue as quickly as possible.

Cantwell: Ms. Boyle.

Ms. Boyle: Thank you for the question, Senator. And I agree completely, that these tragic incidents are the type of thing that the agency needs to address more quickly and more comprehensively, and that we should use all of our authorities to do so. Currently, there is administrative litigation pending, and I think that it’s a good thing that the agency is looking to use that authority. There's mandatory rulemaking, that it's a potential option, including doing a better job at communicating to consumers of the risks. And so I think we have to use all of our authorities, and if we don't have sufficient authorities, to work with this committee to see what else we can do to make sure that we are able to respond more quickly when these things happen.

Cantwell: Thank you. Mr. Trumka.

Mr. Trumka: Thank you, Senator. The stories of injury and deaths caused by residential elevators, they're tragic, and as you pointed out, avoidable. I think it should absolutely be a priority, and I am very happy to work with you to make sure we get the best fix there.

Cantwell: Thank you. Well, I think as Commissioners, this is the judgment that we're asking people to make to protect the life and safety of particularly young children, which is a very big role for the Commission.