Safety message gets a big lift from skits

Two performers showing the incorrect actions of leaning over the handrail on an escalator and using the hands to stop lift doors from closing to educate pupils on safety.
Two performers showing the incorrect actions of leaning over the handrail on an escalator and using the hands to stop lift doors from closing to educate pupils on safety.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

It is assembly time at Anderson Primary School, and an entire hall of pupils is chuckling to the antics of two goofy "technicians" on stage.

The duo hold up unlikely items found in an escalator shaft, from a plastic bottle to a USB cable.

But the children's laughter turns quickly into a collective grimace when the two men hold up a "human toe bone". The message: Fooling around on escalators could get you hurt.

Since last August, Hitachi Elevator Asia has taken this safety skit to about 30,000 pupils across 31 primary schools in Singapore. The outreach, part of the firm's corporate social responsibility efforts, aims to promote safety in lifts and escalators among children.

Hitachi hired events company Comcepts to help conceptualise the programme early last year.

During each session, notebooks with illustrated safety tips and quizzes are distributed to pupils. As the actors perform actions such as jumping in the lift, the children are asked to flash the red or green covers of the notebook to indicate if each action is right or wrong.

The skit's serious message is made accessible by humorous moments, such as when the "lift" on stage tells the audience: "Don't jump up and down when using me. It gives me a headache."

The half-hour show ends with a catchy rap, with the children repeating its catchphrase: "Watch out! Careful where you're standing in lifts and escalators."

The free programme had its first run in Pei Chun Public School last August, and has made its way to other schools such as Pei Tong Primary and St Stephen's School.

Ms Wendy Yak, deputy general manager of Hitachi Elevator Asia's corporate planning division, said the programme arose out of concern over what she said was the rising number of lift and escalator accidents in Singapore as well as around the region.

She told The Straits Times: "We believe the majority of these accidents could have been prevented."

She stressed that the programme is not related directly to the recent spate of lift accidents in Singapore.

An 85-year-old Jurong resident had her hand severed by lift doors last October. Just last month, in Ang Mo Kio, a 36-year-old maid fell and hurt her back after the lift she was in suddenly shot up 17 storeys.

In response to the incidents, the Building and Construction Authority has raised public education efforts, distributing posters and conducting seminars on lift safety.

Hitachi plans to extend its programme to private and special needs schools, nurseries and kindergartens. When contacted, other lift companies such as Fujitec, Mitsubishi and Chevalier said they do not run such programmes.

Mr Craig Monteiro, Comcepts' group account director, said the skit and song aim to grab the attention of young children. "We knew a video or PowerPoint presentation was not going to get the message across to a generation that looks at videos every day."

It seems to have worked.

Anderson Primary School teacher Angela Lee, 33, said: "The children were very excited. Skits of this nature, with props, are very helpful in bringing out a sharp and clear message on the proper behaviour when using such public facilities."

Nine-year-old Peh Hui Wen from the school said she found the skit funny, but also a good lesson. She said: "My grandmother always uses her hands to block the lift doors. I will tell her not to do it anymore."

Stay-home mother Ng Pei Chyi, 43, whose eight-year-old son goes to St Stephen's School, said: "As parents we also tell our kids what to do and what not to do, but sometimes they say we are nagging.

"Hopefully, this can leave a deeper impression on the children."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'Safety message gets a big lift from skits'. Print Edition | Subscribe