I spent the weekend traveling (to do fun stuff at my destination) and spent a fair bit of time in airports. I saw quite a few escalators with different signs on them, so I thought I’d address how much you are required to follow those signs.
And are escalators really dangerous?
I spent quite a bit of time in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. This is a huge airport, with 5 different terminals. Interestingly, it seemed as if the escalators in the different terminals had different signs on their escalators.
Over in terminal D, there was no mention of bare feet.
But back in terminal B, there was this.
Note that the yellow signs still don’t mention bare feet, but the “Safety Rules” do (number 4—sorry about the fuzziness). Think they have enough signs there?
Another sign in terminal B was of the yellow variety.
So, what’s going on? How “official” are these signs?
First, there are no officials laws or regulations regarding escalators. These signs are put there by the manufacturers (or maybe those who have installed the escalator), and they are there for liability reasons. Escalators are actually pretty dangerous.
In a case written about in the “British Journal of Plastic Surgery” (Volume: 54, Issue: 1, January, 2001. pp. 83-84), a 7-year-old boy had the rubber roll-over front of his show get caught in one.
Here’s the shoe, and the damage.
There have been a lot of lawsuits (and wins!) by people who have been injured on escalators. For instance, in Rattenborg v. Montgomery Elevator Company, a teen-age girl got the side of her tennis shoe caught in the comb on the left side of the escalator. And in Hunt v. City Stores, a 12-year-old boy got his tennis shoe caught between the moving tread and the escalator’s side panel.
This seems to be one of the more dangerous parts of the escalator. In fact, if you look closely at an escalator, you’ll see it has a long continuous brush on the side.
That is an attempt to keep people’s feet away from the side.
I’ve also managed to find a slew of cases in which high heels have gotten wedged between the slats, and there are also plenty of cases in which shoelaces have gotten caught.
But you know what? There is not a single case in which a bare foot has been injured on an escalator. I suspect that one reason for that is that there just aren’t that many barefooted people around using escalators. But I think it is also the case the when you are barefoot, you do a much better job of looking where you are walking, and being careful.
Yet, there are still those signs warning about bare feet on escalators, and they never say a darn thing about soft rubber soles, or shoelaces, or high heels. Yet those latter are where the manufacturers are actually losing money in lawsuits.
Here’s yet another one, from the escalator when I returned to Columbus.
I found the source of these signs. Here’s a whole set of them, (scroll down to see all at once) and they seem to cover all the ones I saw on my trip. So basically all that is happening is that the manufacturer (or the business) just picks a sign from a supplier, and sticks it on the escalator. There is no thought involved, no research into what the real hazards are—they just pick something from a catalog.
It really says something about how people think that bare feet are somehow really dangerous that they warn us about them when there has never been a lawsuit for a barefooted injury, but they don’t warn us about the situations in which there really have been lawsuits.
Let me finish on a brighter note. The Dallas airport was pretty nice, and had all sorts of art/decorations in it, including this floor mosaic.
That was really fun to walk on. Being able to feel the subtle
variations from the tesserae just added to the enjoyment of the piece.