National Academies Press: OpenBook

Escalator Falls (2020)

Chapter: Chapter 5 - Conclusions

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions." 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 5 - Conclusions." 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 5 - Conclusions." 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 5 - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Escalator Falls. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25899.
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Page 57

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54 Conclusions This chapter provides a summary of the key findings of the synthesis study of escalator falls in airport terminals, including the current state of practice, evaluations of effective mitigations, research gaps, and suggestions for additional research. Current State of the Practice Escalator falls are a significant concern for risk management staff at airports. The review of literature, incident data, and survey has demonstrated that human behavior is the primary cause of escalator falls and not the design or condition of the escalator. Mass transit systems with escalators exhibit similar patterns in escalator fall incidents. The major differences between the airport and the transit environments are the amount of baggage carried onto the escalator and the level of unfamiliarity of people with the escalator environ- ment in airports. As airport terminals place service-animal relief areas on both sides of security, terminal opera- tors may need to include more signage and wayfinding for passengers traveling with service and companion animals to discourage them from using escalators. Some literature suggests the hair between the pads on some breeds of dogs can be caught in the treads of escalators and moving walkways. Anecdotal information suggests that there may be a correlation between the type and loca- tion of terminal slips and falls and post-travel physiological changes. Such changes may result from some combination of pressure changes, dehydration, gastrointestinal distress, and the well-documented effects of sitting for long periods. These changes may cause vulnerable passengers to experience additional balance and vestibular problems resulting in trips and falls in terminals. Research has shown that transit agencies have been more proactive than airports in develop- ing public service programs, audio announcements, and signage to mitigate risks of escalator falls. Airport terminals also have elevators, but terminals are much larger and more complex than transit facilities. The locations of airport elevators may not be obvious to people unfamiliar with the airport layout. Wayfinding signs are important in the terminal for guiding people to the elevators located in places other than on the main path of travel. Current airport escalator signage is inconsistent both within and between airports. The signage does not follow basic sign conventions or consider the unique aspects of the airport environment. Consistent airport escalator signage that uses symbols and icons will increase comprehension at all airports. C H A P T E R 5

Conclusions 55 Escalator configuration can reduce factors leading to injury incidents. New escalator stan- dards mandate a maximum escalator speed of 100 fpm, reduced from 125 fpm. The survey results and research indicated that a few airports have reduced the maximum speed to 80 fpm or 90 fpm in their procurement documents or in practice. There is no published research to suggest an appropriate maximum escalator speed for the airport environment. In general, air- ports have a constant speed for the escalator. Wider escalator steps provide more step space for people riding side by side or with baggage. This helps adults with small children keep the children away from the edge of the step, where they might be caught in the machinery. Risk management professionals from both the airport and transit environments have expressed interest in developing common reporting schemes for escalator incidents. Common reporting schemes would allow more robust data analysis to identify common causes of escala- tor falls. Risk management professionals expressed interest in data that helps in understanding trends with the objective of changing lagging indicators to leading indicators of risk reduction. One example is whether data on the type of footwear worn by people involved in escalator inci- dents would change incident rates. Evaluation of Effective Mitigations Escalator falls and incidents are random events, which makes it difficult to use standard statistical methods to identify causality or successful mitigation strategies. The literature, survey, and interviews suggest mitigations for escalator falls. These mitigations include esca- lator design and operations, escalator signage and terminal wayfinding, elevators, remote baggage check-in, and public safety programs. Escalator Configuration and Operations The research suggests that slowing down the escalator and providing three flat steps at the entrance and exit portions of escalators eases the transition of passengers on and off the escala- tor. The review of the literature has not determined a recommended airport escalator speed. Wider steps of 48 inches provide more step space away from the edges for passengers traveling with children or baggage. Some airports also use staff and volunteers to manage congestion at the escalator entrance and exits during high-traffic periods. Escalator Signage Airport operators should work to develop appropriate and consistent signage for air- port escalators. The airport environment is more complex than the transit environment for wayfinding and must accommodate diverse passenger demographics, including people who might not speak English. Effective escalator signage and elevator wayfinding should use icons and pictograms rather than text and address the key risk factors such as wheeled devices and baggage. Signs need to suggest safe behaviors for riding escalators and should ensure that passengers who should not be on the escalator can easily self-identify and find the elevator. Escalator signage must also comply with state and local regulations. Terminal Wayfinding Terminal wayfinding signs are important to direct passengers to the elevators. Wayfinding signs should use internationally recognized symbols and icons and should be readily visible to all passengers. Specifically, terminals need to consider sight lines for passengers in wheeled

56 Escalator Falls mobility devices when locating wayfinding signs. Elevator signage in the vicinity of escala- tors provides other options to passengers who have baggage, wheeled mobility devices, or children. Elevators Elevators are essential for reducing escalator falls. They need to be convenient and available for use. Elevators need to be co-located with escalators as a first choice for conveyance, and ideally should be located more prominently on the path of travel than escalators and have homing with open doors and green lights. Remote Baggage Check-in Remote baggage check-in is relatively new. Preliminary results have shown that it is very con- venient for passengers, but there is no research determining whether it has any direct impact on escalator falls at airports that have implemented this service. Public Safety Programs There are very few airport-related public safety announcements or specific programs on escalator safety. Airport operators should develop airport-specific escalator safety programs. There are examples from transit agencies around the world that have invested in developing escalator-specific public safety programs to raise awareness of appropriate escalator behavior. The evaluation data from Transport for London showed a reduction in incidents for certain types of public information programs (Harley 2016). There are no published results of evalu- ations of airport public-safety programs. Research Gaps and Suggestions for Future Research The research gaps and suggestions for future research are related. Several mitigations sug- gested in this report need to be evaluated to determine the overall effectiveness as reflected in a reduction in number and severity of escalator falls. The literature and survey both identified the challenges in comparing incident data. There are no standardized reporting systems, and therefore comparing and evaluating incident data are difficult. Individual airports have their own systems for incident reporting and the legal sensitivity of the data makes research analysis difficult. The survey and interviews emphasize the need for consistent airport escalator signage that is appropriate for the airport environment and satisfies escalator safety standards. The study has shown a need to develop escalator signage appropriate for the airport envi- ronment. Airport and escalator professional organizations could work together to develop standards for consistent escalator signage appropriate to the airport environment. However, conflicting state and local regulations regarding signage may make such an effort impractical. Studies have indicated that elevators are important devices in escalator safety. Future research should focus on objectively evaluating the effectiveness of placing elevators directly on the path of travel. Risk management professionals have acknowledged that reduction of escalator speed eases the transition, but no studies have been conducted to determine an optimal escalator speed in the airport environment.

Conclusions 57 Airport terminal designs often dictate the escalator configuration, and passenger flow studies can be used to predict escalator configurations that minimize passenger intermixing at the entry and exit to escalators. The use of bollards to prevent large items such as luggage carts or wheeled devices have been used in some North American airports; however, further investigation is needed to evaluate the impact on escalator safety. Preliminary studies have shown the many benefits to passengers and airport operators of remote baggage check-in, but none of the studies has examined the impact of remote baggage check-in on escalator incidents. There is anecdotal—but not substantiated—data indicating that to avoid baggage fees, passengers are carrying more baggage through the terminal. There is a need to study the impact of baggage fees on the amount of baggage carried through the terminal and whether this influences the frequency of passenger falls on escalators. Open Issues The panel has identified a number of open issues associated with the escalator falls study. They include the following: • Development of standard airport-escalator signage; • Development of standard airport-elevator wayfinding signage; • Investigation of airport escalator-maintenance contracts and practices (scope of services, on-site/off-site, working or on-call hours); • Bollards—there is little U.S. experience with the use of bollards; • The number of flat steps in the transition zone before and after the moving escalator stairs; and • Optimal escalator speeds. The development of standard escalator and elevator wayfinding signage should engage a broad group of stakeholders to ensure compliance with signage standards and usability. The United States is one of the few countries that does not use bollards at escalator entrances to pre- vent people from taking baggage carts and large pieces of luggage onto escalators. Engineering studies are needed to investigate optimal escalator speed and the use or three or more flat steps in the escalator transition zones.

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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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