Step Up – Escalators Are Dangerous

Escalators at the Copenhagen Metro

Most of us have used escalators at malls, in office buildings and at airports. And we have surely seen that nervous person standing at one end of it, caught in a mental conflict of whether to step on it or not.

While some of us have been mildly amused by that person, their fear is, in fact, more than justified.

Escalators aren’t as safe as a lot of us have come to assume they are. In 2013, there were 12,260 escalator-related injuries and deaths in the US. Of those, children and senior citizens comprised over 60% of the victims. [source]

The web is filled with horrific accidents involving escalators. I just saw this one a short while earlier. Apart from being really tragic, it serves as a strong reminder to parents, to get their heads out of their phones and out of distracting conversations when accompanied by young kids.

A Suggestion

Given the obvious risks associated with escalators, what if malls and other buildings with escalators installed a barricade at the two ends, right in front of the handrails? Just something that doesn’t move easily, and is about ~3.5 feet high. Something shaped like cricket shin pads perhaps? While it won’t reduce risks due to collapsing of linked steps or landing sections, or wandering kids going up or down the escalator, it will prevent accidents due to handrails themselves.

It’s not just kids

Back in college, I was once hanging out with friends at a mall, when one of them, while talking to us and walking backwards near an escalator. He continued talking while unknowingly leaning back onto the escalator’s handrail at the top. Before we could even realize what was happening, the conveyor and handrail had managed to pick up my friend, and he was backwards, on his way down, atop the handrail. Thankfully we managed to pull him off at the top.

Obviously toddlers are not the only ones at risk with the handrails. Friction between rubber handrails and a person’s body or clothes creates considerable grip. And conveyors are powerful enough to lift even an overweight adult.

We users really need to be careful while on or around escalators. And it is high time manufacturers started thinking of ways to make escalators safer.

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