New code for a step up in escalator safety

Adherence to revised standards, which include installation of additional safety devices, will be compulsory from Dec 1

By the end of this year, escalator operators will need to display instructional signs reminding parents not to push prams onto escalators, and to hold on firmly to small children.

To further enhance safety, suppliers of new escalators being built will also be required to install additional devices, including one to monitor the speed of the handrail relative to the steps, and another to detect when steps are missing or installed incorrectly.

These mandatory requirements are included in a revised code governing how new escalators are designed, installed and maintained.

There were 63 escalator-related accidents - or about one a day - in November and December last year, according to the latest statistics released by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The new set of standards was published two months ago by Spring Singapore, the national standards body, and developed by an industry-led working group.

It will be adopted from Dec 1, to give the industry sufficient time to adapt to the new requirements.

A spokesman for BCA said: "Singapore Standards such as the escalator code are revised periodically to keep them updated in line with new technological changes and safety practices."

There are more than 6,000 escalators in Singapore.

The BCA said that 95 per cent of escalator accidents were due to "user behaviour", which included escalator users carrying heavy or bulky objects such as luggage and prams on the escalators.

Some users also fell due to "inattentiveness, intoxication, being unwell or from leaning against the sides of the escalator".

  • >6k

    The number of escalators in Singapore


    Percentage of escalator accidents due to "user behaviour"

In November last year, BCA introduced a stricter maintenance regime, which required escalator owners to engage a registered contractor to maintain their machines every month.

The new code makes a handrail speed monitoring device mandatory for new escalators. The device will shut down the escalator if the speeds of the handrail and the steps - which run on separate motors - deviate beyond a threshold of 2 per cent, which can cause a user to trip.

Mr Lum Chong Chuen, managing director of LAC Engineers & Associates, said a 2 per cent relative speed difference is "practically negligible", even for elderly people with slower reflexes, and will not compromise on users' safety.

Engineer S. Yogeeswaran, a member of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technical Committee of The Institution of Engineers Singapore, said that under the new code, more headroom will have to be provided if there is an overhead structure, and barriers erected at escalator landings, to minimise the risk of users toppling over the balustrade.

Mr Quah Eng Hing, secretary of the Singapore Lift and Escalator Contractors and Manufacturers Association, pointed out that demarcations - such as yellow-coloured lines that indicate the outer limits of each step - will become mandatory.

Mr Yogeeswaran added: "If you look at the older escalators, this was not a requirement. But increasingly it has become a more common practice, as it tells people not to stand beyond the step... as their toes can get trapped," he added.

The experts agreed that requirements to put up safety signs will be a boon. Otis Elevator Singapore, one of the major suppliers here, said its escalators are already designed and manufactured to the EN115 European standards which the Singapore standard is adopted from, and it is ready for the new requirements.

Otis managing director Greg Nagle said: "We believe that the new enhanced standard is a step in the right direction to continue to raise the safety and reliability standards across the industry in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 04, 2017, with the headline 'New code for a step up in escalator safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe