Cracking the Code

Feb. 7, 2002
Escalator Initiative Helps Reduce Liability
By Edward A. DonoghueEvery day, approximately 245 million people ride escalators in the United States and Canada. The National Elevator Industry Inc. (NEII), a Teaneck, NJ-based trade association for firms that manufacture, install, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other short-range transportation products, actively supports escalator safety programs.NEII’s latest initiative focuses on reducing “entrapments,” the infrequent pinching accidents that can occur between the side of the step and the adjacent skirt. With this goal in mind, NEII commissioned Arthur D. Little Inc., based in Cambridge, MA, to study step/skirt entrapment parameters and develop a Performance Index. This index is now part of the New York City-based American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, ASME A17.1, which serves as the basis for all state and local escalator codes throughout the United States. The code supersedes the current A17.1 specifications for low-friction skirt panels and maximum step/skirt clearance. It encompasses both new and existing equipment.The ASME A17.1 code now requires that new escalators without deflector devices maintain an index of 0.15 or less. New escalators with deflector devices must maintain an index of 0.40 or less. Mounting deflector devices on the skirt significantly reduces the chance of contact between a child’s calf and the escalator skirt.In spring 2002, the ASME A17.1 code will require that new escalators having skirt deflectors maintain an index of 0.25 or less. Existing escalators, installed to earlier ASME A17.1 code editions, are similarly affected. Escalators without deflector devices will require an index of 0.15 or less while those with deflector devices must maintain an index of 0.40 or less.The addition of skirt deflectors might be the preferred choice for building owners and facilities managers, due to the difficulty of achieving and maintaining an index of 0.15 or less on some existing escalators. However, depending upon age and usage, some escalators may require additional modifications to bring them into compliance.Escalator safety continues to improve, due to mechanical advancements and expanded precautionary measures. NEII believes that escalator safety and injury protection is the joint responsibility of everyone involved, including escalator manufacturers, maintenance companies, building owners and facilities managers, and, of course, the riding public. By complying, facilities professionals enhance rider safety while reducing potential liability.Escalator injuries are so rare, compared to the number of passenger rides each day, that we take them for granted. However, escalators are complex machines and injuries can and do occur, although infrequently. Used properly, these devices are one of the safest forms of public transportation available. Additional information on the ASME A17.1 code requirements for new and existing escalators can be found at NEII’s website ( In addition, escalator rider safety information, including interactive, educational programs for children and adults, can be found at the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation’s website ( A. Donoghue is the code and safety consultant at Teaneck, NJ-based National Elevator Industry Inc.

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