Globe: Most Massachusetts escalators not timely inspected

Last month, we posted about a tragic accident at the Auburn Mall that occurred when a 4-year-old boy fell from the top of an escalator that was missing a safety guard and was killed. The boy reportedly had been shopping with his mom at Sears when he reached with both hands for the moving rail on the escalator going the opposite way and fell two stories between the six-inch gap separating them.

Today, the Boston Globe reported that the safety of all of the escalators in Massachusetts has now been called into question after an investigation conducted revealed that 75 percent of the state’s escalators had not been regularly inspected over the past three years. According to the Globe, out of 188 escalators at the state’s major malls, only 44 had been inspected for safety each year from 2008 to 2010, which is required under Massachusetts law.

What’s more is that when the inspections were completed, inspectors often found that the escalators were in need of repair more often than not and frequently found many problems with the escalators. In fact, the Globe reported that mall escalators had been shut down 22 times in Massachusetts because of safety problems.

Because of the constant wear and tear shopping mall escalators endure, the Globe reported that experts recommend that they be inspected yearly for safety hazards.

Escalators as well as elevators are regulated by the Department of Public Safety, which launched an examination of about 900 escalators statewide following the tragic accident. The officials said that they are making progress to check that all of the state’s escalators are up to code, but there is simply not enough inspectors to check all escalators and elevators each year.

Following the Auburn Mall accident last month, the two inspectors who had approved the Sears escalator as safe were suspended; however, after reviewing the other inspections, their work appears to have been as complete as the work of the other inspectors, state officials said.

According to the public safety commissioner, the “absolute majority” of escalators appeared safe in the recent inspections and the results of those inspections will soon be made public.

As of right now, it is not known if the family of the 4-year-old who was tragically killed will sue the state for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, but it appears certainly possible.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Most mall escalators lack full state inspections,” Peter Schworm and Matt Carroll, 4/25/2011.