While they are not overly common, there are at least a few places here in West Virginia that have escalators. Some establishments that commonly have these constantly moving staircases include multi-story office buildings, airports, shopping centers or malls, mass transit hubs, and sports arenas.
Many people fear using escalators because they’ve seen videos on the news showing individuals losing their footing and falling down. Are these isolated incidents or fairly commonplace? Are slips, trips, and falls the only injury risk escalator users have to worry about? Also, what injuries might result from an escalator-involved incident? Answers to these questions (and others) can be found throughout the remainder of the article.
How Common Are Escalator Accidents?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps a joint recording of both elevator and escalator injuries. The BLS’ latest data shows that these combined escalator and elevator incidents result in at least 17,000 serious injuries as many as around 30 deaths.
At least 75% of escalator-involved incidents involve falls, according to a study commissioned by The Center for Construction Research and Training.
How Escalator Falls Occur
Various factors result in individuals falling while traveling on escalators, including the following:
One of the scariest times for an escalator user is when they first step foot on an escalator. It can be quite jarring to go from standing on a flat, stationary surface like a carpeted or tile floor at the head or base of a moving stairway type of escalator. It can even be jarring when individuals step foot on or disembark moving walkways, as they often exist along long concourses in airports and other facilities.
Timing stepping on an escalator can be challenging, resulting in a potential loss of balance. Adjusting to being on it can be jarring, initially leading to disorientation. User distractions like the following also increase the potential for disorientation:
- Looking around them (i.e., window shopping)
- Communicating with others while getting on or using escalators
- Attempting to wrangle kids, shopping bags, a walker, and strollers in addition to oneself
Another issue that escalator users have to worry about because of its potential for causing them to fall is getting their clothes caught in this piece of equipment. Potential pieces of clothing that may get stuck between the stairs or along the sides of an escalator include:
- Pants legs
- Bag straps
- Stiletto heels
- Flip flops
Users Most Likely To Experience Escalator Falls
The North Carolina Department of Labor contends that at least 90% of all escalator injury incidents involve children or seniors.
Children are most likely to fall on escalators when their parents allow them to:
- Get on the escalator by themselves, without holding their hands
- Sit down on the steps
- Get on the escalator barefoot, open-toed shoes, or without first tying their shoelaces
- Slide their feet along the edge of the unit instead of centering themselves on the stair
- Lean on the escalator’s railings
- Engage in horseplay while riding the escalator
Parents also leave their kids vulnerable to falling when they attempt to get on the escalator while they’re still in a stroller.
As for seniors, they are at their highest risk of falling when getting on and off escalators. Their fall risk is tied to the shift in momentum that users experience when traveling from a stationary to a moving surface. Any additional obstructions, such as canes and walkers on top of an already-reduced diminished equilibrium or balance that come with age, make for a particularly dangerous scenario.
Types of Falls That Occur on Escalators
When most people hear about escalator falls, they envision some of the following scenarios:
- Someone tumbling down the entire moving staircase from near the top all the way to the bottom
- Backward falls that result in a user riding their way down the escalator on their rear-end
- Someone falling back, striking their head on a stair, and sliding down the entire unit on their back
- A person who rides the railing or leans over it too much may plunge to the ground below
It’s not unheard of for escalator users to also fall overboard the side of the unit because guardrails become loose, are poorly maintained or are too low to keep individuals safely aboard it.
A loss of footing (balance issues) is most often responsible for individuals falling both forward and backward.
Injuries Most Commonly Resulting From Escalator Falls
Some common injuries individuals who fall on escalators suffer include:
- Strains and sprains
- Broken bones
- Head trauma, resulting in brain injuries
- Neck and spine injuries, such as paralysis
One situation that can compound matters is if one person’s fall from a higher level of the escalator creates a domino effect whereby they collide with those down below. The force of the impact can lead to an initial set of injuries; however, the added speed and force with which these individuals fall to the ground can make matters worse.
As noted above, death often results when individuals fall down escalators as well.
How an Attorney Can Help Following Your Escalator Accident
Determining what caused an escalator incident can be challenging. While liability in an instance in which someone who’s got their hands full with kids or bags tumbles, crashing into you may be clear, it may not be as obvious in other situations.
Poor maintenance such as slippery or sticky stairs or an unexpected power surge might have given way to your own balancing issues. There could have also been a product defect that impacted the escalator’s speed or the functionality of its shut-off switch. Falls may have also occurred because property owners or escalator repairpersons neglected to warn potential users that the unit was out of order.
There are countless reasons that escalator falls may have occurred, and your attorneys can help you pinpoint the reason yours did. A lawyer can also help you prove liability if it appears someone else’s negligence resulted in your injuries.
Proving liability is key to securing much-needed compensation for your medical bills and other expenses that you’re sure to have. Our attorneys are standing by to provide you with a free case evaluation, contact us now.