Many people have a fear of elevators – claustrophobia mixed with a fear of heights. A healthy fear of escalators might be more logical. More people are injured on escalators and moving walkways than elevators, despite the fact that elevators far outnumber them.
Children and the elderly are the most prone to escalator accidents, mostly from falls or from getting their hands and feet caught. What can be done to reduce the risk? Can anyone be held legally responsible for escalator injuries?
Escalators and moving walkways injure thousands
We have some 33,000 escalators and moving sidewalks in the United States, and more than 600,000 elevators. Yet escalators and automated walkways carry far more people – 180 million rides per day compared to only 55 million elevator rides. Even adjusting for ridership, escalators have a greater rate of injuries.
Of those 16,000 escalator incidents each year, more than half are children under age 5 or seniors over age 65. Falls are the most common cause of injury: falling on the moving conveyor, falling over the railing, or tripping when exiting the escalator. Children are more likely to get caught in the apparatus, suffering loss of limb or disfigurement. Escalator deaths are rare – fatal falls from heights or suffocated by one’s own entangled clothing.
Malls and department stores are not usually the culprit. The majority of injuries occur on escalators and moving sidewalks in transportation hubs — airports, subway stations and transit terminals.
Escalators are statistically safe, but you can reduce the risks further
In perspective, 20,000 or so injuries out of some 200 million escalator and elevator rides shows that these are safe modes of transport. But a little caution and common sense can prevent a tragedy:
- Children should not ride alone – Escalators are not entertainment.
- Children should not sit down while riding – You don’t want their hands or clothing anywhere near the danger points.
- Face forward, with feet in the middle – The biggest threat to children is getting their hands or feet caught in the space between the conveyer and the side of the escalator.
- Don’t sit on the railing or hang over the side – Period.
- Don’t bring strollers, wheelchairs, walkers or luggage carts on an escalator – Take the extra time to use the elevator.
- Tie your shoes. Mind your sandals.
Sometimes people get injured on escalators and moving sidewalks through no fault of their own. A frequent cause of accidents is escalators that halt suddently, jerk forward or abruptly reverse. The property owner or public entity may be liable if they had knowledge of a hazard or had not kept up with maintenance and inspection. The escalator manufacturer or maintenance company can be sued for failure of defective parts, negligent repair work or failure to fix reported problems in a timely manner. Was the escalator equipped with an emergency shutoff? Were proper skirts and guards in place? Is the end of the escalator clearly marked so people know where to step off?
If a serious injury does occur, consult a law firm with experience in premises liability law. The personal injury lawyers of Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz LLC are familiar with these cases and the companies in Baltimore and throughout Maryland that service escalators.