I'm an elevator repairman. This is why you don't get off until the door is open all the way. - Chap 6
- I'm an elevator repairman. This is why you don't get off until the door is open all the way.
- Chap 6 - #Rule 6 is simple - Don't lie about your weight
Here’s another rule that people are constantly breaking. Rule #6 – Don’t lie about your weight if you want to live.
How often have you actually looked up and checked the weight capacity sign before hitting the “close doors” button? I bet you could count the number of times on one hand, especially if you live in a big city where you’re constantly going up and down on elevator rides.
And yet every elevator repairman will tell you that is one thing you should always do – without fail. The average weight capacity of an elevator is 2,100 to 2,500 lbs. Usually it would take fifteen people or more to exceed that limit. Typically no problem, but not always.
If you look through the history of elevator accidents, which I have, you’ll see that the majority of them occur on construction sites. Sure, a few happen in completed apartment buildings and condos, where the cable pulling the passenger elevator simply snaps and the car plunges down the shaft resulting in the inevitable deaths of everyone inside.
What they don’t tell you is that the cable doesn’t just snap for no reason. They break because people consistently ignore the weight limit signs. Over time those cables begin to buckle and fray, little strands coming loose one by one and breaking, until there is nothing left.
What happened to a co-worker of mine at Mackenzie Elevator Repair Company was a little different. In his case there wasn’t even a cable pulling the elevator, it was a motor on a skip hoist. Those things operate a bit differently than typical elevators – instead of a cable there are essentially gears being turned by the motor drawing the car up and down a track on a tower.
If you’ve driven past a high rise construction site you’ve seen them without even realizing what they are called. They just look like giant elevators rising up and down on a big steel tower that is just outside the building. The box itself looks like a subway car that has been cut in half with a gate on one side that lifts up to let people on and off. You have to step over a three inch gap to get to the floor of the building you’re working on as well, looking down at the ground far below as you step across, the car swaying back and forth with the motion of too many people. You don’t want to look down.
This guy was telling me about it over lunch one day and I quickly forgot about my turkey sandwich and just sat there listening to him, jaw agape.
His name was Brian, and he had worked on high rise construction projects for years before coming over to our company, touting how much safer it was to work with us. I can’t imagine the hell he must have gone through to be able to make that claim. As I’ve shared here before, ours is a dangerous line of work.
“So I was getting on the hoist at the start of the shift. Had all my tools and my bag full of gear, my lunch and all that. Bunch of other guys were getting on the lift with me,” he was saying between bites of his meatball sub. “Then this guy comes at the last second with this pallet full of tiles. The skip hoist operator asks him, ‘How much weight you got there?’ and he says its 1200 lbs. Buddy says that’s fine, the lift is rated for 6000 lbs so no problem.”
“The doors close and everything is normal. We start going up and I hear this weird creaking noise. I tried not to worry about it too much, since it’s a construction site stuff is always making weird sounds and nothing is 100% safe or anything. You just try to put it out of your mind.
“We’re getting up there, I don’t know which floor but we had been moving for a little while and the operator accidentally went a little bit too far past the floor somebody needed to get out on. I think we were up near level 20 or thereabouts. So he stops the lift and starts to go back down. Suddenly the whole thing drops. And then I got that feeling. You know the one you get when you’re going down the first big drop of a rollercoaster ride? It was like that but a thousand times worse.
“That’s when we started floating. At least that’s what it felt like, for just a second. Like our feet were lifting off the ground and we were suddenly weightless. The whole pallet full of tiles lifts up in the air a couple of inches and then we stopped suddenly. We must have dropped about ten stories.
“The skip hoist operator starts screaming at the guy, ‘How much does that weigh?! That’s not fucking 1200 lbs you piece of shit! You’re going to get us all killed!’ And he decides he’s going back down to ground level.
“So he starts it up and it falls down again, same thing. My heart was already hammering in my chest but at that moment it was like the whole world just stopped and suddenly I was remembering things from my childhood again. You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes? Well it does.
“Then we crashed into the ground and it felt like the end of the world. I just remember seeing carnage – absolute fucking carnage – as everyone around me, myself included, broke just about every last bone in our bodies. I remember seeing so much blood. That and the dust that hung around in the air, making it impossible to breathe. It made a caked-on paste of brownish grey dust and clotted blood that covered every inch of that space.
“I was the only one alive after it fell. Apparently I landed on enough other people that it cushioned my fall. The other guys in there saved my life without ever realizing it. I’ll have survivor’s guilt for the rest of my life, thinking about their lifeless bodies lying all around me, teeth and brains splattered on the walls, intestines hanging from a screwdriver which had somehow driven itself into the wall like a dart. Arms and legs missing their owners laying on top of me and all over.
“If I had been capable of screaming I would have, but my lung was punctured with a piece of metal debris, making it difficult to breathe, let alone call out for help. They probably thought I was dead, which accounted for the lackluster rescue effort.
“I waited in that pile of twisted corpses for hours, until I eventually heard the sound of voices up above. We had crashed right through the ground floor and into the concrete pit that would eventually be the basement. Apparently the motor had failed because we exceeded the weight capacity, I would find out later.
“Because of that my insurance claim was denied. The doctors in the hospital had to sedate me when I got my letter from the company, saying they wouldn’t be covering my medical bills. ‘Lucy Goose Insurance Co.’ – what a bunch of pricks.” He exhaled loudly and went back to eating his sandwich.
I think I’m going to add a new rule to the list. One about never working on construction sites.