Free-falling to your death in a lift is highly unlikely. But lifts do pose an injury risk, especially for the elderly, who need to take special care when using them, a research done from Indiana University School of Medicine in the United States.

They analysed data collected by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, involving almost 45,000 cases of elevator-related injuries in adults 65 and older from 1990 to 2006.

They looked at the type of injury, areas of the body affected, as well as the age and gender of those involved.

The study found that the older a person is, the greater their chance of being involved in a lift injury - with the rate being seven times higher among those 85 and older than those aged 65 to 69. The average age of someone who sustained an injury was 80, and three quarters of those injured were women.

More than half of all injuries followed a slip, trip, or fall and about one third were caused by the lift door closing on the user. Soft-tissue damage, fracture, and cuts were the most common injury types, with the upper arms the body part most commonly affected.

Fifteen per cent were bad enough to require hospital admission, and of these, hip fractures were the most common (40 per cent).

There's a similar injury pattern in Australia, says Nicolas Reid, a researcher at the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit at the Monash University Accident Research Centre. He says he knows of 48 cases in Victoria over the last 10 years, and there are probably many more not recorded.

So while lifts have a very good safety record on the whole, they are not completely risk-free. Deaths do occur but they are mainly among maintenance crew falling off the lift and down the shaft, or from people falling through door openings down the shaft when there is no carriage there. There are no known cases anywhere of elevators simply free-falling and killing the passengers inside.

In most circumstances, its older adults (especially those with poor vision or balance) who need to take most care around lifts.