92% of escalator incidents caused by user behaviour: BCA

As part of an ongoing effort to curb errant behaviour on escalators, the Building and Construction Authority will encourage escalator operators to put up new posters and stickers on escalator safety. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - It is common to see strollers go up on escalators, but the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) wants such sights to go down in number.

There were eight reported escalator incidents caused by the use of strollers since the start of last year, but there were no major injuries reported, said the BCA at a media briefing on Thursday (Dec 20).

According to the BCA, more than 92 per cent of escalator incidents are caused by unsafe behaviour, with the remaining cases the result of mechanical problems such as faulty handrails.

As part of an ongoing effort to curb errant behaviour on escalators, the authority will encourage escalator operators to put up new posters and stickers on escalator safety, with a focus on the use of strollers and bulky items on escalators.

Wheels on strollers can jam escalator steps, causing the steps to be dislodged and the escalator to come to a sudden stop as the safety mechanisms kick in.

Mr Teo Orh Hai, group director of electrical and mechanical engineering at BCA, said it also endangers other users, as the escalator coming to a sudden stop and dislodged steps can cause falls.

However, not all users may be on board. Designer Johan Hamzah, 45, who uses a stroller for his three-year-old daughter, said: "I may just ignore the signs. Have you seen the lifts (at shopping malls)? Sometimes it's just impossible to get into them."

There have been more than 700 escalator incidents reported since the start of last year - an average of about one a day.

There are more than 6,600 escalators in Singapore.

Incidents reported to BCA are those involving injuries or the malfunction of critical safety components.

For example, in March this year at Bugis Junction, a woman's arm was trapped in a gap between a wall and an escalator, and passers-by had to smash the glass portion of the escalator railing to free her.

Other unsafe behaviour on escalators include not holding the handrail, using mobile phones and not standing within the yellow lines.

Escalators are required to be maintained at least once a month and operating permits need to be displayed, in the light of new measures in recent years.

The BCA on Thursday also announced the addition of one more escalator maintenance outcome to the existing 10, which include, for example, handrails moving in the same direction and at the same speed as escalator steps.

From early next year, escalator service contractors must ensure the controller and electrical system - known as the "brain" of the machinery - must be free of defects, as well as earthed and grounded.

BCA clarified that while such checks are already taking place, it wanted to further specify outcomes.

Engineer S. Yogeeswaran, a member of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technical Committee of the Institution of Engineers Singapore, is supportive of public education campaigns for escalator use.

He said: "A lot of the time, people don't realise escalators are machines and when using them, they need to stick to necessary precautions."

Mr Lum Chong Chuen, another engineer on the committee, affirmed the benefit of public education: "If these (safety) signs are followed, it should help to greatly reduce escalator incidents."

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