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Common causes of escalator accidents

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2022 | Premises Liability

Escalators in this country make 105 billion passenger trips each year. But these people movers can cause serious accidents.

Widespread use

Escalators move people quickly from floor to floor in buildings in greater numbers and frequency than elevators. But their speed, if combined with defective equipment or poor maintenance, can lead to escalator accident injuries and grounds for a premises liability lawsuit.

Escalators also transport passengers rapidly along one floor to speed up travel on that floor. This transportation is commonly used in airports.

There are an estimated 35,000 escalators in the United States. These devices transport an average of 12,000 people each year.


Escalators that are inadequately maintained or defective may cause accidents. Common defects include:

  • Escalator tracks with missing teeth
  • Missing or loose screws
  • Excessive space between the steps and the escalator sides
  • Broken or missing steps

Escalator malfunctions may cause these accidents:

  • Finger entrapment if the handrail entry at the balustrade has an excessively large opening. This is a particular risk for children.
  • Comb plate entrapment
  • Between-step entrapment
  • Hair, clothing, shoes or other personal effects becoming lodged in the escalator
  • Slip and falls. This a common accident for elderly passengers.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 24 non-work-related escalator fatalities in this country in its study of escalator fatalities from 1992 to 2003, or an average of two deaths each year. Eight of these deaths were attributed to clothing being caught at the top or bottom of the escalator or between the escalator’s stair step and side wall.

The CPSC also found that pedestrian falls, some including serious head trauma, caused 16 of these deaths and that falls caused 75% of the 6,000 escalator injuries in this country. Entrapment caused 20% of injuries and the remaining 5% were caused by other causes.


Escalators designed and manufactured before 2002 pose more of a risk of entrapment injuries by lacking the stricter requirements for escalator skirt safety enacted through the 2002 ASME Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators.

City and state agencies are usually thorough with performing annual inspections. However, escalators and its components are not subject to federal accident inspections or recalls. The CPSC does not have the same authority to regulate escalators that it has for vehicles or personal equipment.

Manufacturers are required only to send out a product letter by certified mail to equipment owners when a design defect is discovered. The media and public rarely learn about these faulty products until accidents or injuries occur.

Personal injury attorneys can investigate these accidents. They can assist accident victims to seek compensation.