“Elevator Technology and its Engineering are very difficult topics to understand. I have seen many Engineering Graduates passing out from Institutes like IIT, but failing to understand how an Elevator works and the Controlling Logic behind AN ELEVATOR”. (Click here to read part I)
It was March 11, 1999, Thursday. 11 am at Worli, Mumbai.
Road traffic was crawling as traffic cops were busy creating some space for 2 Fire Engines heading towards a building on busy Dr Anni Basent Road, to save a man who was repairing an Elevator and was trapped on top of that Elevator in a very serious accident.
The people who install, maintain or repair Elevators may get injured in a variety of ways, including falls, electrical shocks, muscle strains and other injuries related to lockout/tag out, confined spaces, scaffolds, cranes, rigging, hoisting and heavy equipment.
There were quite a few Elevator accidents where passengers travelling in the Elevator have suffered serious injuries. But the cases of any passenger dying in an Elevator accident are extremely rare. In 2011, there were 2 cases of Elevator accidents reported back to back in the US. In one of the incidents one lady was crushed by an Elevator after she tried to climb out of a stuck Elevator car. One more lady, died in another separate incident after an Elevator door in her office building closed on her leg as she was stepping in and dragged her body up into the Elevator hoist way.
The incidents were tragic but also very rare. According to a survey, “U.S. Elevators make 18 billion passenger trips per year.” Those trips result in about 27 deaths annually.
That works out to a fatality rate of 0.00000015% per trip. (Read full report here)
Injuries and deaths are so uncommon that there isn’t much written about them.
The safety profile for passengers is much better. Because of the intricate, redundant and regulated safety features built in to every Elevator, catastrophes are rare outside of movies and TV. So-called rope Elevators require only one woven steel cable, but they usually have four to eight cables just in case. In addition, Elevators are equipped with “automatic braking systems” that are backed up by “electromagnetic brakes.” Finally, at the bottom of the hoist way is a heavy-duty shock absorber system designed to save passengers if all else fails.
In a commercial building at Worli, Mumbai, our Company had undertaken a Modernisation project of Elevators. Almost every day, either me or my business partner used to visit this job site. On the day of March 11, 1999, I visited the site at around 10.30 am, met our working team and left the site in 15 minutes.
The repair person from our Company Arif (name changed) was working on the top of the Elevator car near the ground floor. Within hardly 10-15 minutes after I left the site, I received a call from my partner on my cellphone. He said that he got a call from this building and someone told him that our repair person has met with an accident.
I immediately rushed to the site.
There were around 200 odd people gathered at the ground floor in front of the Elevator which was being modernised. They were all waiting for someone to come and rescue Arif who was stuck up badly in a very small gap between front side of the Elevator and the front (entrance side) wall.
First thing what I did was to put off the Elevator mains at the ground floor and cut off the power supply to the Elevator. I could easily see that the Elevator was between the 1st and the ground floor. So to access the top of the Elevator, I went to the first floor and opened first floor door with the emergency key.
What I saw there was just horrible.
There happens to be a pointed angular bar (see the pictures above) which is mounted on the Elevator door which gets coupled with the floor or the landing door when the Elevator reaches any floor. After reaching the floor, this bar helps electrically operated Elevator door to open the landing door. The bar which was installed at the site was pointed at the top having 8-10 mm thickness and around 2’ of length. It’s known as spear cam or the door clutch.
This spear cam had gone through Arif’s left thigh penetrating his pelvis and finally coming out just above his waist. He was literally hanging on this cam which was protruding around 5-6 inches from left side of his waist. He was moaning for help.
I immediately asked someone to call an ambulance first. Then with the help of fire brigade personals we moved the Elevator manually from the Machine room, so that we could take Arif out. Later we slowly took Arif out of the cam.
In an unconscious state, we managed to take Arif to nearby KEM hospital in the ambulance. Doctors at the KEM hospital tried their best to save his life but he succumbed to his injuries and gave up at around 3.30 PM.
In the investigations it was found that, although Arif was working on the top of the Elevator, the Elevator was not in ‘100% maintenance mode’. There was one switch on the Elevator Controller, which was not activated for the Elevator to be in the ‘maintenance mode’. As the Elevator was under modernisation, the Elevator Controller was the old one and maintenance switch on the Controller was wrongly marked since the beginning, which went unnoticed.
It was also found that, Arif must have had turned “off” the maintenance switch on the Elevator top by mistake while working. As Elevator Controller maintenance switch was also in “off mode”, the Elevator went in to a NORMAL MODE and floor buttons got activated. Someone must have pressed one of the floor call buttons to which the Elevator responded, that too in normal fast speed!
Completely unaware of the fact that the Elevator will even move, Arif lost his balance as Elevator moved in NORMAL FAST SPEED. Due to the lost balance, he fell on the spare cam bar. The Elevator started travelling in UP direction and stopped only after Arif hit the bottom of the first floor landing which made the bar to further penetrate him.
To be cont’d…27