By Mariam Mokhtar
In early February this year, the Director-General of the Department of Occupational Health and Safety (DOSH), Ir. Mohtar Musri, told "The SunDaily", that between 2011 and May 2015, 97% of the victims of escalator accidents were young children.
He said that during this period, there had been 31 reports of escalator accidents and he suggested ways and means to use the escalator safely, especially when children are involved.
Mohtar's statement came a few days after a four-year-old boy lost half of his foot, in an escalator accident, in KL Sentral. The boy's feet was on the yellow demarcation line, but one foot became trapped in the escalator's mechanism, and was severed.
Firemen tried to retrieve the missing part of the boy's trapped foot, but it was not recovered quickly enough, so doctors were unable to re-attach the missing part of the foot.
Four months later, another child was injured on an escalator. The accident happened on June 6, in Bagan Serai.
The three-year-old was with his father, as they made their way to a toy shop, on the third floor of a shopping complex. The boy sat on the escalator, but when he reached the top of the escalator, and was about to step off, the boy's trousers was caught on the moving parts of the stairway.
The fabric was trapped and as the trousers was pulled towards the comb of the escalator, the boy was dragged too, and injured the tip of his penis.
Eight firefighters from the Bagan Serai Fire and Rescue Department arrived, to find the boy's penis trapped in the comb of the escalator, and they had to use crowbars to prise apart the escalator panels around him.
The whole operation, to extricate him from the escalator, took around half an hour and the boy, Mohd Rohaizad Abd Rahman, was rushed to the Taiping Hospital.
The DG of DOSH, has advised parents that they must observe their children and adhere to escalators' safety guidelines, to avoid accidents on the escalator. He said that in the KL Sentral case, the operators of the escalator had observed the necessary security precautions to ensure the safety of the escalator users.
So what can we do, to ensure the safety of our children when using an escalator?
1. Before you mount an escalator be aware of your surroundings. The risk increases when more than one child is with you, as children can be easily distracted and your attention diverted. Make sure the child has no loose fabrics or dangling items on them, which could easily be caught on the escalator.
2. Hold your child's free hand, or his arm. Make sure that the child faces forward and does not move about. He could lose his balance and get his hand trapped, or he may fall onto the person on a lower step of the escalator.
3. Make sure that you observe extra precautions if your child has sandals, or soft shoes, as these can easily become stuck in the moving parts of the escalator. It is best if very young children wear firm shoes, and are told to behave when they are on the steps.
4. Tell them that they are not to step on an escalator which is moving towards them.
5. Very young children should be lifted up in your arms, and you should also firmly grasp the handrail of the escalator. Very young children may have poor coordination and be unable to step-off the escalator safely, or they may lose their balance.
6. Tell children to avoid stepping on the combs of the escalator, but to step over them, because the comb is where shoes normally get trapped.
7. Children should stand in the middle of the escalator and not on the yellow demarcation line.
8. If your child drops something on the escalator, ask him to tell you and warn him not to retrieve it. Little fingers and hands can easily become stuck in the sides and the moving parts of the escalator.
9. If you have a stroller or lots of packages to carry, find an alternative means to move from one floor to another, like the lift.
10. Just before you step-off, warn the child that he is about to leave the escalator. Tell him to continue to move forward and not stop abruptly, because other people will be coming up behind him on the escalator. He should not jump-off, in case he loses his balance.
Be aware as you mount and dismount the escalator and tell your child, not to play near the escalator.