Oil Spill

Nipple with damaged gasket

Hi, I'm worthless.

A typical annual hydraulic elevator inspection turned cluster: My mechanic, we’ll call him 420, pops the pressure gauge on the valve’s quick connect (shown above) to read the bypass pressure. The car is put on the stop ring and the relief pressure is recorded. I am standing over the fitting happily writing machine/location info onto my notepad. After re-positioning the elevator and removing several jumpers, 420 comes over and pops the gauge off the fitting. Chaos. The rubber gasket in the fitting gets stuck and the nipple sticks open. Hydraulic oil, direct shot into my face. I scramble to find a non-existent machine room shut-off valve and, as if I was in a cartoon, my feet shoot out from under me and I’m kissing the gray floor glossed with an ever-increasing sheet of oil. After trying to cover the explosion with the tank lid, 420 runs out of the machine room to shut off the pit valve. The motor is desperately pumping more and more oil to the valve to keep the elevator floor level. It’s all in vain as the valve laughingly spews the fluid into the air. 420 soon realizes that he can’t get to the pit shut-off valve and is beating on the locked machine room door to get back in. I crawl under the oil stream and let him back into the madness. In addition to the jet streams of oil, the fitting shoots out a fine mist of hydraulic fluid which sets off the smoke detector in the machine room and the fire alarm in the entire building. 420 hits the disconnect, and after a few more seconds of oil spew hell, the elevator rests on the buffers and the oil slowly trickles out of the fitting. Covered in oil, we walk out to an evacuated office building and a parking lot full of office employees, fire trucks, and one angry little facilities engineer.

Then I went on a much needed 5-day vacation in the mountains of Arkansas where there are no elevators.

Closing note with some vertical transportation undertones – I went to Korea Fest in Houston this last weekend. It was held at Discovery Green which is one of our bigger downtown outdoor venues. The scenery makes this place. And to think, this sweet backdrop would not be possible without the contributions of our obscure little industry…

Korean Festival at Discovery Green in Houston, TX

K-Fest at Discovery Green with the Houston skyline as a backdrop (click for bigger pic)

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