The sound of a passing subway car on a set of elevated tracks and the distinct smell of Chicago-style pizza were in the air when ElevatorInfo arrived outside of the brand new, glass-walled structure where @IUEC Local 2 member and @TKElevator mechanic Mike Durkin oversees a variety of conveyance equipment that includes 31 elevators, eight car banks, and two escalators.

We met up with Mike in Chicago to speak with him about his strategies for keeping elevator constructors safe on the job. When we entered the lobby, it was clear right away that this was a place where a lot of activity happens. From customers going in and out of the bakery in the lobby to business clients and building tenants traveling up and down the two big escalators at the front entrance, the building Mike is responsible for was bustling with activity all day long.

One of the first things we noticed was how clean the machine rooms we visited were. The work areas were spotless, with no visible debris, dust, or dirt; no tools out of place, just pristine rooms housing the millions of dollars’ worth of equipment that Mike and the TK team used their expertise to keep running smoothly. “We like to keep our machine rooms clean because a clean workspace is a safe workspace,” he said.

This is especially important in a building with as much activity as his. In a business-centered environment, professionalism and keeping passengers safe is an absolute must. “If the people in this building never think about getting stuck in an elevator, never worry about getting their hand pinched on a handrail or their shoe caught in a comb plate, that means I did my job well,” Mike remarked.

Because he is a graduate of the International Union of Elevator Constructors’ National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP), Mike received the most comprehensive and safety-focused training the industry has to offer. Beginning during the probationary apprenticeship period, NEIEP apprentices are required to complete courses and certifications that will keep them safe through the duration of their careers including OSHA 10, SAIA Competent Person Training for Framed and Suspended Scaffolds, American Heart Association Heartsaver® First Aid CPR AED, in addition to the trade-specific safety training embedded in the general apprenticeship curriculum. As a mechanic, Mike’s education benefits give him the opportunity to enroll in additional safety training through NEIEP such as Arc Flash Safety and Awareness, Confined Space Awareness, and OSHA 30 – all with no out-of-pocket expense.

Working on jobsites that pose as many risks as those in the construction and conveyance world, it is vital for mechanics and apprentices to have the ability to accurately assess potential dangers and know what kind of safety precautions to put in place to mitigate those hazards.
Mike spoke about the importance of having regular toolbox talks each week in addition to the monthly 2-hour continuing education safety standdown his company sponsors. “Every day when I come to the job, I know that I am going to be safe and I know that I’ll be effectively able to manage (to maintain) this building because of the training I received years ago through NEIEP and what I continue to receive on a weekly and monthly basis through TK Elevator,” he said.

Watch the video to learn more about how Mike puts his training into practice to keep himself, his coworkers, and riding public safe.

View NEIEP’s complete course catalog with descriptions of the industry’s top-quality safety and technical training at

When we first met Hector Saldana, president of IUEC Local 25 and Mechanic-in-Charge (MIC) for Schindler Elevator Company at a new construction site just outside of Denver, he’d just geared up with a full set of personal protective equipment (PPE). He immediately asked us to do the same, as we were about to enter an active construction area. “I’ve been in this trade for approximately 17 years. Safety first and foremost for me,” he said.

From just outside the hoistway, he spoke with us about how important it is to have clear, direct communication with all of the mechanics and apprentices on his jobsite. He described weekly toolbox talks with a focus on being proactive as being at the forefront of his strategy. “What I always try to tell them, especially Monday mornings, is, ‘if you see something, say something.’ Don’t leave it for somebody else, especially if it’s a safety concern.”

IUEC Local 25 Denver currently has close to 600 members. Their territory covers all of Colorado, as well as some shared jurisdiction in Wyoming and Nebraska. Members also gather at the Local 25 headquarters in Sheridan, Colorado, to discuss ways to continue to work safely and avoid potential hazards on the job. “We all chit-chat – even though we might not all work for the same company, we work on the same equipment,” Hector said. It’s this shared, open, regular communication that helps keep everyone safe.

Aside from looking out for elevator constructors on the jobsite, Hector was quick to remind us about another responsibility that falls on all people working in the trade – keeping the riding public safe and confident when it comes to using elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other conveyance equipment. “You want the public to come up, just push a button get in, push the other button and get out safely. In and out. It is something we don’t want them ever to even think about.”

Hector emphasized that his most important job as an MIC and leader in his Local is to get his IUEC brothers and sisters home safe at the end of each day. “It doesn’t matter how fast they’re pushing us. They’re always going to push us, but I have to get those elevator constructors back home.”

Several years ago, members of the IUEC Safety Committee and staff from the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund were reviewing on-the-job accidents that had led to fatalities for elevator constructors. A scenario that came up several times was one in which an elevator constructor was struck by a descending car while standing on a pit ladder. In a five-year period, four elevator constructors had been killed and numerous others had been injured in this way.

Committee member Scott Russell, an Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund National Coordinator and IUEC Local 32 member from Atlanta, Georgia, realized he had an opportunity to make a difference by designing a safer pit ladder. If the pit ladder was equipped with an electrical protective device (EPD) that would remove power from the drive machine and brake – preventing the elevator from moving while someone was on the ladder – accidents like this could be avoided. Having sensors on the pit ladder would make it possible for this to happen automatically, without the need for an elevator constructor to remember to set switches manually.

Four prototypes for a safety pit ladder were designed. The first was equipped with an EPD on the access door that would automatically shut the power down as soon as the door was opened. The second was a system of pressure pads that would signal an EPD to interrupt power if weight were detected on any of the ladder’s rungs. The third used an EPD that would be activated by any vertical movement of the ladder. The fourth incorporated light-sensing technology for object detection means (e.g., photo eye, light ray, light curtain, etc.) that would shut power down if a photosensor was tripped.

Once the prototypes had been finished and an effective ladder design had been finalized, Scott transferred the rights to develop the technology to the team at the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund for five dollars to ensure it could be moved to production as quickly and easily as possible. He then worked with ASME code committees to develop a requirement for using this technology in elevator installations. The most recent update for the ASME A17.1-2022/CSA B44:22 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators now requires sensors to be used on newly-installed pit ladders.

At the end of the day, safety must always be the top priority. Working in the elevator industry will always involve some risk, so we must do everything in our power to work safe every day. The innovative new technology of the Safety Pit Ladder will help elevator constructors across the country do just that.