The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates, nearly 11,000 people were treated in hospitals last year for injuries involving escalators, mostly falls. Escalators carry about 90 billion riders a year, the agency estimates.
Some safety advocates say escalators are inherently dangerous and question the blame recently heaped on Crocs-type shoes, which several children were wearing in highly publicized accidents across the country.
In May, the CPSC warned of the risk of “popular soft-sided flexible clogs and slides” on escalators, saying they were involved in all but two of 77 foot entrapment incidents the agency was aware of since January 2006. In July, Crocs Inc. announced plans to put escalator safety messages on tags on its footwear. Crocs is a Colorado company based in Niwot.
According to news reports, a Singapore girl’s big toe was ripped off in November 2006; a 3-year-old girl had to have two toes partially amputated after an April 2007 incident when her shoe got stuck in the teeth of an escalator at an Atlanta airport; and a 4-year-old Virginia boy wearing a pair of navy Crocs lost a toenail in an escalator accident in September 2007 that sent his mother into a panic and landed him in the emergency room.
In February, a New York parent filed a $7 million lawsuit against Crocs, claiming his 3-year-old daughter was “severely and permanently injured” when one of her pink, holed shoes was sucked into an airport escalator last year.
In 1997 the escalator industry created voluntary standards for reducing the size of the gap and the amount of friction along the sides of escalator steps. These measures have become part of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ escalator standards — as well as many enforceable building codes across the country.
But many consumer advocates argue that the voluntary standards are not sufficient, that in many states the determination as to whether escalator is within compliance is left to the owner/operator nota a regulatory agency and that older escalators are left without retrofitting to comply with the newer safety standards. There is even a nonprofit organization focused on escalator safety, Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation.