An elevator mechanic in his 60s nearly lost his hand on Wednesday, November 7, 2013, around 9:45 a.m. local time, when his hand became entrapped by a traction sheave while he was working on an elevator at 1300 17th Street North, a high rise office building in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. The victim’s coworkers immediately called for paramedics, who arrived shortly after the coworkers were able to free the victim’s hand. Reports indicate that the victim’s hand was almost entirely severed, however, it was not clear at the time of writing whether doctors would be able to save his hand.
Traction sheaves are essentially the “pulley” through which an elevator’s hoist cables pass over, allowing the hoist motor to move the cab. As a result, the weight on each cable at the sheave is generally equal to the weight of the elevator car, the weight of any load within the car, the counterweight, the hoist cables, and half the weight of the traveling cable beneath the car. As a result, it is easy to understand how the incredible force of a sheave entrapment could result in a partial amputation of a limb. Given the victim’s age, it was likely that he was a seasoned elevator industry veteran, so it is not clear what factors contributed to the accident. Elevator mechanics are trained to understand the various hazards that motor rooms present, however even industry veterans can make mistakes. Working around sheaves is particularly dangerous, and sheaves will often bear orange warning labels indicating the entrapment hazard for this reason. Loose fitting clothing, tools, long hair, and even long facial hair can easily become entrapped when working around a moving traction sheave. Because of the hazards that elevator motor rooms present, the riding public should never attempt to access an elevator machine room or the equipment inside without proper training.
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