Mangled hands and feet, lacerated tendons, broken or cut off fingers and toes, head injuries -- all are documented escalator injuries. Children can fall and get caught when they run, walk, sit or play on moving escalators. Those age 6 and younger are at highest risk.
In some cases, escalator injuries occur when children get their hands caught between moving and stationary parts of the handrail. Others are hurt while playing at the foot of the escalator and becoming entangled in the machinery of the comb plate at the bottom of the stairs.
Though uncommon -- fewer than 1,000 are reported each year -- escalator injuries are usually serious. Luckily, most such accidents are avoidable. Teaching your children to face forward, to hold both an adult's hand and the handrail while riding, to stand still and keep feet away from the edge of the step are probably the best preventive measures, according to the Escalator Safety Foundation.
To keep your child and yourself safe:
Check for loose or dangling items of clothing before stepping on. Loose shoelaces, mittens and drawstrings can get trapped in an escalator's moving parts, cautions the National Safety Council.
- Lift toddlers on and off the step. Shoes and boots with soft rubber soles have been known to slip into cracks between steps and the escalator wall, so try to keep those little feet planted firmly on the step.
- When you're shopping with a child in a stroller, always use the elevator. Escalator steps aren't wide enough to accommodate a stroller, so its weight may not be evenly balanced on the step; if the stroller tips over, you and your baby could take a nasty tumble. The stroller may also block your view of the bottom of the escalator, increasing your odds of tripping. And the people behind you can bump into you if you don't get off fast enough.
- Make sure your child does not lean on the handrail -- the excess weight can slow the whole stairway down and throw riders off balance.
- If your child does tumble or get caught, there are emergency stop buttons on every escalator, usually near the bottom but sometimes alongside the stairs. Take a minute to locate them before you get on.
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