Why It Matters

Ensuring safe escalator use

The world's first-ever escalator was installed in 1896 on New York's Coney Island - as a novelty ride.

Today, the device has become a ubiquitous people-mover, and in Singapore, there are more than 6,000 of them.

But for all their speed and convenience, escalators are also potential sites for accidents, especially when people do not exercise care while using them.

Last Thursday, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said that since Nov 1, it had received reports of 63 incidents - or about one a day - relating to the use of escalators. The BCA said that 95 per cent of the cases were attributed to "user behaviour".

The common causes? Escalator users carrying heavy or bulky objects, and losing their balance. Users also fell due to "inattentiveness, intoxication, being unwell, or from leaning against the sides of the escalator", the BCA revealed.

To promote the safe use of escalators, the authority is working with owners of escalators - including malls, schools and hospitals - to raise awareness through posters on safety.

The BCA has also introduced new guidelines on escalator maintenance, which include notifying the authority when incidents result in deaths or injuries.

The findings on escalator incidents serve as a timely reminder for Singaporeans to exercise care when using them daily.

Last month, a 71-year-old man fell 3m from an escalator in Tiong Bahru MRT station while trying to support his wife who became unsteady, The New Paper reported. The month before, a 64-year-old man fell down an escalator at Bishan MRT station, and had to undergo two brain operations.

The BCA said that about 78 per cent of the escalator incidents involved those above the age of 60. It is timely to study how design and function can make escalators safer, especially for senior citizens.

This is already under way, with the Land Transport Authority - along with SMRT and SBS Transit - testing out reduced escalator speeds at selected MRT stations. Hopefully, other escalator owners will take a page from their book and look to improve safety.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Ensuring safe escalator use'. Print Edition | Subscribe