National Academies Press: OpenBook

Escalator Falls (2020)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Escalator Falls. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25899.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Escalator Falls. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25899.
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3 Introduction Nearly all airport terminals are space-constrained and can only expand vertically. Vertical expansion means that passengers need a way to move between vertical levels. Many airport operators see escalators as the most efficient method for accomplishing this. Escalator equip- ment designs and configurations consider people, travel speed, and redundancy, but typically do not account for the baggage and mobility devices that airport travelers bring with them. At many airport terminals, escalators are not co-located with elevators, so people will usually choose to take themselves, their baggage, and their travel companions on easily found escala- tors instead of hunting for an out-of-the-way and inconspicuous elevator. Airport escalators carry increasing passenger volumes and are a major cause of passenger-related incidents in terminals. Newer airport terminal designs implement a number of changes to reduce escalator-related incidents, including newer, safer escalator designs; co-location of elevators; updated lighting; and signage for wayfinding and escalator use. Some airports have also used audio messaging and short videos to supplement passive signage in informing and educating travelers. Most airports have passive video coverage of escalators as a risk management tool. The objective of the study was to identify and describe ways to mitigate risks from escalator usage. The target audience for this synthesis was airport operators (planning and engineering groups; marketing, customer experience, and revenue/advertising; safety and risk managers; maintenance); designers, architects, and consultants; airport management companies and building operators; insurance carriers and brokers; and escalator manufacturers. The synthesis report summarizes current literature and provides suggested mitigations to increase airport operators’ knowledge of options to accommodate safely the needs of people for vertical movement. The synthesis report includes suggestions for improving terminal and escalator design, escalator and wayfinding signage, public education, and data management to reduce escalator fall risks. The synthesis study shows that many factors contribute to escalator safety. The main contributors to incidents are user behavior and human factors. Other contributing factors include the design and operation of escalators and their immediate surroundings. Terminal operators should work to reduce active distractors around escalators such as advertising, art, and spaces that invite people to use them unsafely. A key factor in increasing escalator safety is minimizing the distance between elevators and escalators and providing adequate escalator signage to warn of potential hazards and guide people toward elevators. C H A P T E R 1

4 Escalator Falls Key Terminology The synthesis report makes specific reference to escalator signage. These are signs affixed to the escalator that must comply with local and state escalator codes. Wayfinding signage refers to signs guiding travelers through the air terminal. Other definitions and terms are included in Appendix A. Research Methodology The project activities included an extensive review of existing literature for North American and international sources on the nature and reasons for escalator incidents at airports and strategies for reducing escalator falls. The literature review also includes a review of escalator falls in mass transit hubs. Surveys and interviews of airport safety and risk management professionals were under- taken to understand effective practices for improving safety on escalators and reducing falls from a range of large-, medium-, small-, and non-hub airports as defined by the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Despite three attempts at contacting more than 80 airports, only 12 responded. The survey responses are consistent with findings from the literature. Escalator incident data from a few airports was reviewed. Incident data and litera- ture indicate that most escalator incidents result from human behavior and not the design or condition of the escalator. Phone interviews conducted with risk management professionals confirmed the findings from the literature, incident data, and surveys. Organization of the Report The synthesis report includes five chapters. Chapter 1 is an introduction and overview, and Chapter 2 includes a review of current literature related to escalator falls. Literature reviewed for this section includes references from mass transit hubs as well as airports. Chapter 3 is a summary of the results from the project survey and interviews that identified current practices that contribute to escalator safety. Chapter 4 introduces mitigation strategies and describes implementation of some of the mitigation strategies. Many of the mitigation strategies are illustrated with examples from airports both inside of and outside of North America. Chapter 5 provides a summary of key findings discussed in Chapters 2, 3, and 4. The References section includes the references cited in the report. A bibliography includes reviewed refer- ences that were not cited in the report. Appendix A includes acronyms and terminology used in the report. Appendix B includes the survey cover letter and survey that was sent to 80 airports. Appendix C includes the data tables of the results of the surveys.

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Escalator falls are a significant concern for risk management staff at airports and in mass transit systems. The major differences between the airport and transit environments are the amount of baggage carried onto the escalator and the level of unfamiliarity of people with the escalator environment in airports.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program's ACRP Synthesis 109: Escalator Falls identifies and describes methods to mitigate risks associated with escalator usage.

Risk management professionals from both the airport and transit environments have expressed interest in developing common reporting schemes and more robust data analysis to identify common causes of escalator falls.


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