Elevator Constructors Develop Innovative Pit Ladder Safety Technology

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.