Escalators have been a pretty permanent feature of the American urban environment for decades now — usually in high-traffic areas like shopping malls, hospitals and airports.

Unfortunately, they may not be particularly safe to ride. There are a number of defects common to escalators that are poorly maintained:

— Missing teeth on the track where the plates join

— Loose or missing screws

— Broken or missing steps

These and other mechanical failures have led to some catastrophic injuries and deaths over the last few decades.

A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that around 75 percent of the approximately 6,000 escalator injuries reported each year were the result of falls. Entrapment injuries, where someone’s shoe, clothing, fingers or toes get caught in between the moving plates, account for another 20 percent of injuries, and all other causes make up the remaining 5 percent of injuries. Entrapment injuries tend to be the most traumatic, especially for young children.

Adding to the potential problems, the CPSC isn’t authorized to regulate escalators as it does other products, so escalators aren’t subject to federal accident inspections or parts recalls. Additionally, manufacturers of escalators find a design defect, they only have to notify the owners of the escalators — which means that there isn’t a lot of information about escalator defects available to the public.

Because of this, many people likely assume that horseplay and carelessness, not design defects, breakdowns and machine failures are the cause of the majority of escalator accidents.

In reality, the archaic design and poor maintenance of escalators is likely the cause of the majority of escalator accidents. For example, one of the worst disasters involving an escalator happened in 1987 — thirty-one people were killed because an escalator exploded due to the buildup of bits of paper fluff, lint and grease in the inner workings of the machine. While better designs are available, the majority of escalators work on the same method as the first ones designed in 1892.

If someone you loved died due to an escalator accident, consider talking with an attorney as soon as possible in order to discuss the possibility of a case. You may be able to press a wrongful death claim against the escalator’s owner, manufacturer or servicing company, depending on the circumstances.

Source:, “Escalators,” accessed March 10, 2017