February ’12 Article to the Elevator Constructor

Brothers and sisters:

I’ve been thinking a lot about safety over the past few months.  In part because of my return to the trade and comparing safety practices to the foundry industry I was fortunate to work in for three months prior to my return.

When working in the foundry hard hat, safety glasses, metatarsal-protecting shoes, flame retardant clothing and gloves appropriate for the task were the minimum required PPE for anyone outside the locker room or restroom.  People working maintenance needed to be able to work in any part of the plant at any time.  This meant extra gloving, harnesses for working on the cranes or in the man lifts and protection for cutting and welding, masks for certain buildings with high silicon dust and ear protection because no matter where you went it was loud.  Because I was working as an electrician versus a millwright I had arc-rated leather and rubber gloves as well as a tinted full-face shield and jacket for working in high voltage disconnects.  LOTO was mandatory for anything other than troubleshooting requiring the power engaged.

These were rules everyone lived by because everyone knew the dangers we shared and did not want to see a fellow foundry man hurt.  We all looked out for each other.  Unsafe practices were not tolerated.

When someone on the pour line was not wearing his safety glasses under his face shield and was reminded three times in ten minutes by a supervisor from another department his response was a less than courteous “I don’t work for you.”  He was walked out the next day.

As elevator companies institute added layers of safety practices it begs the question:  how much more refinement is needed to reach zero accidents?  Do we really need another safety procedure or do we need reinforcement of a current procedure?  Accessing pits and car tops are the two skills every probationary is taught immediately on their entry into the field.  If you are lucky enough to have a mechanic that teaches and reinforces good habits, there is a good chance you will never have an accident.  If you don’t, well you know where this is going.

Part of the problem is that safety is not personal until it affects you.  Until it is you going to the ER because of a preventable fall, eye injury or laceration much of the training is just words we hear over and over until they lose their meaning.  It is like a parent constantly screaming at a child until that child no longer responds because it is just background noise.

Recently I was part of a group that went through training that qualified us to work at First Energy nuclear plants.  A very high percentage of the training centered on radioactivity and how to safely work around it.  Since it is invisible except to special equipment, it requires a high degree of awareness of your surroundings to keep from becoming contaminated.  The most valuable skill they discussed was the “Two Minute Drill.”  This consisted of upon entering a work space, looking around and evaluating it for potential hazards and avoiding those hazards that are known and reporting those not enumerated prior to starting work.  This was the same thing I did every day at the foundry.  It kept me safe then and I continue to do it today,

One of my resolutions is to actively and consciously keep safe practices in the forefront.  This means LOTO, safety glasses and gloves at the minimum.  When I see one of my colleagues lacking or find a customer that has cut a lock, defeated a safety device or some other transgression, I will take the time to correct them.

After all, we are all in this together.


Till next month,

Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.




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