Escalators can be deadly

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As if I didn't have enough to worry about. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, probably my favorite government agency, sent an email today, warning people about the dangers of escalators.

Granted, this news may not at first glance seem like it has anything to do with a personal finance blog, but plenty of businesspeople use escalators. You may be preparing to use one later today, when going up to see your financial adviser on the fifth floor of a building downtown. And like my recent elevator post, perhaps I should suggest investing in an escalator company. There are at least three that I'm aware of: the Escalator Company, Star Elevator and Escalator Company, and Detroit Escalator Company, or I thought that last one was one, until I logged onto a web site and discovered it's the name of a musician who calls himself the Detroit Escalator Company.

Anyway, if the musician wanted to start his own company, he'd have plenty of work. Each year, according to the CPSC, 90 billion riders use an escalator.

And while most people go up and down without a problem, the CPSC estimates that last year, there were approximately 11,000 escalator related injuries.

And, you know, at first, I was going to really send this up, and make fun of this plight, because it seemed silly and so random, but then I started Googling and found all sorts of scary things.
It really can be dangerous to ride an escalator. Eleven people in Japan were injured on an escalator when it came to a sudden stop earlier this week. And I found three instances of people who died due to escalator accidents in just the last month. I won't link to them because I don't want to anyone to somehow think I'm making fun of this -- I'm not. As it turns out, one of the victims was an elderly man, another was an eight-year-old boy in India who lost his balance and then there was a guy who drank too much and met an untimely end at a baseball stadium in April.

Drinking and escalators definitely don't mix. Years ago, I interviewed the president of a small record label who had a similar accident. He spent a few months in a hospital, reconsidered the direction of his life, stopped drinking and became a valuable member of society. I wish I could find the link to the story. But I digress.

Anyway, if you're curious, the CPSC says that most injuries involve falling, but 10 percent of accidents occur when hands, feet or shoes are trapped in escalators. Soft sided shoes are the most likely to get stuck. Clogs are particularly prone as are women's shoes called slides.

So the CPSC recommends that you:
  • make sure your shoes are tied before getting on an escalator
  • stand in the center of the step
  • always hold children's hands on escalators
  • don't let kids sit or play on the steps
  • don't bring children in strollers onto the escalator
  • face forward (do we really need to be told that?)
And if you're truly panicked, learn where the emergency shutoff buttons are, just in case you need to stop the escalator.

As for me, I'm just going to take the stairs. It's better for you, anyway.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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