Rise in MTR Escalator Accidents Prove Safety Measures Not Working

South China Morning Post reports that escalator accidents at subway stations have increased in frequency during the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year. Such is the unfortunate outcome despite the MTR’s efforts to encourage safety of the riding public.

Various signs — from body parts to the standard signs — have been in place at the base, top and midsections of escalators. On top of this, the ever-present voice-over “please hold the handrail” in three languages keeps an otherwise quiet MTR station noisy that regular riders find them annoying. They may be intended for newcomers, but I bet majority of passengers are frequent riders of the train.

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If those warning signs and reminders aren’t enough, human “ambassadors”, designated staff whose job is to gently remind careless users to take extra care — holding the handrails is the first step.

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But still, records show 474 accidents that took place this year represent 21.5 per cent increase compared to last year.

21.5 per cent increase in escalator accidents to 474 incidents in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year – launched a four-week safety campaign yesterday. Red-shirted safety “ambassadors” at 50 stations will remind commuters to take care.

Maybe there is just too many passengers outmaneuvering each other during rush hour — or folks too fixated with smartphone games or Korean drama that MTR escalator safety is just relegated as second priority — that . I tried, in vain, to search for statistics behind the numbers but failed so far.

Maybe people are too sensitive holding public handrails dating back to the trauma caused by SARS, bird flu and randomly sneezing/coughing passenger that cleaning the handrails multiple times in a day won’t be enough to prevent spread of germs. The last time I checked, Crocs continued to sell that specific sandals positively identified in one of MTR’s safety signs as possible causes of accidents among children.

Or is it about how MTR’s escalators are designed and constructed that is prone to accidents regardless of places, demographics or amount of safety precautions are in place?

So far MTR is embarking on another round of campaign, this time employing human “MTR ambassadors” to help remind users to be more careful when riding the escalator. I hope this works.

If not, shall we take Plan Y, where escalator belts are fastened into each user before riding the escalator. Or Plan Z, which is phasing out all escalators and replace them with elevators and staircases.

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