Keeping children safe on escalators

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The recent case of a two-year-old child whose fingers were stuck in an escalator comb plate at a shopping mall highlights an ongoing problem that is still not being taken seriously. This is the third reported incident involving escalators this year.

Over the past seven years there have been more than 35 reports regarding escalator injuries in Malaysia. A whopping 97% of the victims were young children and half of the injuries occurred in children aged two to four years old.

In November 2016, the Clinical Research Centre Perak conducted a study on escalator safety among Malaysian children aged under five. Six shopping malls in the Kinta region were randomly selected for this study. Trained researchers observed 258 randomly selected parent-child pairs using escalators and audited their behaviours. A checklist of 15 unsafe behaviours was constructed from accredited escalator guidelines from five different countries, including Canada and the UK.

The study showed that of the 258 parent-child pairs observed, 149 (57.8%) children and 162 (63.8%) parents demonstrated at least one unsafe behaviour when using the escalator. Some had many unsafe behaviours – 26% of parents and 17% of children had three or more unsafe behaviours. Of concern, four of the children used the escalator unattended. The infographic shows the breakdown of the unsafe child and adult behaviours.

This study clearly illustrates that more than 50% of parents and children used escalators in an unsafe manner. The potential for serious injuries among children continues to be a real possibility. It is important that we create a national awareness programme to educate parents and children on escalator safety.

Suggestions for safe escalator use:

1. Use the lift and not the escalator when you have more than one child or children aged less than five years old.
2. Always hold your young child’s hand when using the escalator. Adults should hold the handrail.
3. Be extra cautious of your child’s wellbeing/ safety on an escalator, and avoid distractions. Do not use a mobile device. Instead, focus on your child’s (children’s) behaviour and activity.
4. Never use a stroller, baby carriage or trolley on the escalator.
5. Be aware of and avoid loose or dangerous dressing e.g. soft-rubber shoes, long trouser bottoms or long skirts.
6. Do not allow your child to play or run near the escalator, or sit on it.
7. Do not allow your child to face or travel in the opposite direction of the escalator.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Chew Chii Chii, Hasni Adha Ibrahim
Clinical Research Centre Perak