Thumb Amputation (KV 157)


What Happened?

At 9:30 a.m. on June 17, 2017, Employee #1, employed by an elevator company, was working at a job site. He was replacing a motor.

The vise grips (he was using as a wedging device) failed, and the load dropped, striking and pinching Employee #1's thumb. Emergency services were called, and Employee #1 was transported to the hospital. He was treated for the partial amputation of his left thumb.

Contributing Factors

Wrong tool for the job.  The vice grips should not have been used as a wedge.  Furthermore, they probably had been used successfully in similar situations which caused the employee to feel overconfident in using them. 

What Can We Learn?


Using a Questioning Attitude could have  prevented this incident causing him to ask "what is the worst thing that is most likely to happen to me in using the vise grips as a wedging device?”

If the employee used the proper Procedures he would have been ensured that he was performing the task the same way every time to achieve the same safe results.


The employee was Overconfident thinking the vice grip would not fail as overconfidence causes people to overestimate their knowledge, underestimate their risks, and exaggerate their ability to control events.

Ask the Right Questions

How does this relate to our work?

Where do we have similar traps?

What Tools can we use to avoid a similar incident?

Was a stop work point missed?