By Matthew A. Pike
The holiday shopping season is here, and with it are holiday shoppers flocking to department stores and malls to cash in on the year’s biggest sales. Although gift ideas and savings are on everyone’s mind, the increase in foot traffic in malls and stores raises safety concerns for facility managers around the use of vertical transportation. Escalator safety is one of these areas of concern.
However, with the right preparation, facility managers can rest easy this season by significantly reducing the risk of incidents around their elevator and escalator equipment.
Confirm the shopping environment is prepared for heavy traffic. Aside from assessing vertical transportation and identifying any potential issues that may arise in advance of a heavy traffic shopping season, it’s important to make sure the area around the equipment is suited to handle the increase in traffic.
Create and post new signage in advance of the shopping season, which will help deter bad behavior around elevators and escalators. Signs should include directions to the elevator and encourage families with small children and the elderly to use the elevators.
Finally, it’s important to not place any displays, especially those that particularly attract children, around elevators or escalators. Not only will this create congestion in the area and potential tripping hazards, but it could also be unsafe for children who might be inclined to play on the equipment.
Ensure employees are properly trained. An important step in keeping visitors safe during the shopping season is stationing employees of your facility near vertical transportation. While signage will help guide many visitors, it’s the physical employees who will enforce the rules and further discourage bad behavior around elevators and escalators.
Before the doors open on heavy traffic days, make sure employees know what to look for throughout their shift, and who should be directed toward the elevators. For example, children playing around equipment or elderly visitors who might have a difficult time navigating the equipment are better suited to use the elevator. Another consideration is to direct visitors who have several bags, a cart or carriage for children away from the escalator, as these items should always go on the elevator with patrons.
Prevent visitors from using out-of-service escalators. An escalator shutdown during shopping season can be frustrating for visitors. If your escalator experiences issues during the heavy-traffic season, be sure to barricade it immediately. This can prevent two potential incidents. First, trips and falls are more likely on non-moving escalators being used as stairs, as the step risers are significantly different from regular stairs. Secondly, although the brake is designed to hold more than the equipment’s weight in the event of a shutdown, it is not meant to bear the dead weight of consistent foot traffic. Instead, the brake functions only to hold the step band in place. Once your escalator is barricaded, call your service provider right away to decrease your equipment’s down-time during the busy shopping season.
Shopping season is an important time for retail stores everywhere, when millions of consumers stop in to check a few items off their holiday gift lists. While foot-traffic seems like a difficult task to manage during this time, it can be done simply with a little preparation and planning from facility managers.
Pike is manager of customer based risk management for KONE. In this role, he helps develop and implement new programs aimed at addressing safety within vertical transportation equipment, which includes hands-on work with some of KONE’s largest customers across North America. This article was first published in Facility Executive.