The federal government, in a reversal of a long-standing position, has determined that escalators pose a special threat to children and is pushing for an overhaul of most of the country's 30,000 escalators.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that escalators can be made less hazardous to children with the addition of safety devices that have been on the market but were never before required, according to documents obtained by the Globe.
"All of this information suggests that regular occurrences of entrapment, particularly of the legs and feet of small children, can be almost completely eliminated by the installation of aftermarket safety devices," the agency wrote in a letter this month to the chairman of the committee that sets the national escalator safety code.
The agency is calling for tougher standards for new equipment, saying that a redesign of escalators could "reduce or eliminate many of the other hazards as well."
Safety commission spokesman Rick Frost said the agency is most concerned about the gap between the moving stair and the sidewall on an escalator. The agency estimates that about 1,000 people a year seek emergency treatment after a body part or shoe is sucked into that gap. Of that number, half are children under 5, the agency said.
An estimated 7,300 people sought emergency-room treatment for escalator injuries in 1994.
Pub Date: 7/21/96