Escalators may pose hazards

New Jersey residents might not give much thought to getting on an escalator. However, people are sometimes hurt or killed while using them.

The design of escalators hasn't changed much since it was patented 121 years ago. Clothing and body parts can become stuck in escalators. One man was strangled when the hood of his sweatshirt tangled in an escalator. The device can also malfunction and buck riders off the steps. One of the worst escalator-related accidents happened in 1987 when an escalator exploded and caught fire, killing 31 people. The culprit was scraps of paper, lint and grease that had collected inside the machine and on its undercarriage.

Such accidents have helped prompt a few changes in escalator design and safety. Many escalators now include emergency stop buttons, deflector brushes and automatic sprinklers. Some even include modified landing platforms with trays that catch dust, hair, oil and water to prevent them from getting into the gears.

Analysts say part of the reason the design hasn't changed much over the years is because it's safe enough that manufacturers don't have any incentive to change. Moreover, international standards make it difficult to change the design. In any case, it seems that moving up and down is inherently risky. About 12,000 people die from falling on regular stairs each year in the U.S.

Every year, people suffer falls on the premises of retail stores, supermarkets, office buildings and other commercial buildings. Our Woodbridge premises liability lawyer has experience with injuries on properties and may be able to analyze the details of someone's accident and suggest filing a claim against a negligent property owner.