Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?
I've always been a helicopter parent when it comes to escalators. Maybe it's because of the time as a kid when I gouged my knee and bled all over the escalator at Ridgedale mall. (OK, I was walking down the up escalator, but that's not important right now!)
So my curiosity was drawn to the headlines about four children and one adult being injured badly enough on an escalator in Duluth Wednesday to require hospital care. (WDIO has video of kids being wheeled out of the Wells Fargo building, where the incident occurred around 1 p.m.) Can't you just picture it? A line of day-care kids, all tethered together on a safety rope, going down an escalator when one of the kids gets scared and doesn't get off. All of the kids go tumbling and then everyone else coming down the escalator has nowhere to go.
Duluth police described a "chain reaction," and reported that one of the children suffered a significant ankle injury. These incidents seem rare but grab headlines -- like the 2005 incident in New York in which more than a dozen children were injured on a movie theater escalator.
A database maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates an estimated 11,609 people suffered injuries on escalators or moving walkways in 2012. About 1,400 of the injured were children 14 or younger. Descriptions of the 2012 incidents on the federal database include:
On January 26: "4 YO F, C/O RT FOOT PAIN S/P HER RAIN BOOT GETTING CAUGHT IN ESCALATOR AT COURTHOUSE AT 4:30PM, BOOT HAD TO BE CUT OFF, DX FOOT CONTUSION
On April 6: "3 YOM FELL BACKWARDS AND HIT HIS HEAD WHILE RIDING ON ESCALATOR AT BARNES HOSPITAL. DX: ABRASION SCALP. "
On June 4: "14 YOM INJURED KNEE WHILE RUNNING UP ESCALATOR AT MALL INTERNAL DERANGEMENT OF KNEE."
There were also a few reports of kids injuring their arms or elbows because their parents were pulling them up the escalators.
The injury rate is fairly small, considering an estimated 90 billion escalator rides take place annually. But the federal safety commission nonetheless issued safety tips in 2008:
- Make sure shoes are tied before getting on an escalator.
- Stand in the center of the step and be sure to step off of the escalator at the end of your ride.
- Always hold children's hands on escalators and do not permit children to sit or play on the steps.
- Do not bring children onto escalators in strollers, walkers, or carts.
- Always face forward and hold the handrail.
- Avoid the sides of steps where entrapment can occur.
- Learn where the emergency shutoff buttons are in case you need to stop the escalator.