Integral Safety Vision
A look at improving equipment safety via awareness programs around the world
This article was first presented at the 2018 International Elevator & Escalator Symposium in Istanbul. For more information on 2019’s event in Las Vegas and to participate, visit www.elevatorsymposium.org.
Liftinstituut believes elevator and escalator safety is not a responsibility with one dimension or single factor. Rather, it is a complex combination of factors, including design and maintenance, but also, and possibly more importantly, behaviors. In recent years, the Netherlands-based Notified Body has been looking to combine these factors into an integral safety approach.
Experiences with both European and North American standards and the interpretations of these standards across the globe and the review of different risk assessments for similar products led to the conclusion that risks are interpreted and mitigated differently. People’s behaviors are part of their culture; the effectiveness of methods to improve safety may differ depending on that culture. For example, a measure working perfectly in Germany may be misunderstood in China or North America. With global products and global safety standards, risks may be introduced unintentionally. Therefore, a manufacturer must consider more than just safety standards and provide manuals.
The interaction time with lifts and escalators is very short. It is assumed that people know how to behave around and operate these products. So, there is a limit to the effectiveness of the provided information by the manufacturer/installer. Therefore, other information channels need to be used to inform the public.
We all have different associations with the word “safety.” For one person, it means to protect his or her children from harm. For other people, it is their daily job, such as for safety inspectors for lifts, the police, etc.
The dictionary says it is “the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk or injury.” In our field, we transport people. The lift is classified as one of the safest means of transportation. Many accidents happen; every month, there are messages about engineers not returning to their loved ones and children falling from escalators while playing on them. Something should be done to better protect people and reduce these numbers.
Integral Safety Approach
To improve safety for lifts and escalators, we need to look at the whole picture. During the design process, the focus may be myopic due to specialization. That’s why it is very important that in a risk-assessment team, for example, there should be members from different departments. Everybody has a different view on risks in relation to the product. The following sections discuss five points Liftinstituut believes are important to improve lift and escalator safety.
Why Do Accidents Happen?
According to James Reason, a professor of psychology at the University of Manchester in the U.K., an accident is caused by multiple failures. Using “the Swiss cheese model,” every slice of cheese is a barrier to prevent an accident from happening. All the measures we take will have some weaknesses: the holes in the cheese.
The four slices stand for organizational influences, supervision, preconditions and specific or unsafe acts:
- Specific or unsafe acts: The act can be directly related to the accident and is called an active failure. Examples are: ignoring safety procedures (e.g. lockout/tagout and not using personal protective equipment).
The other three are latent failures. The failures already exist but are not directly noticeable. They are consequences of decisions made during the design or build of the product, or management decisions.
- 2. Organizational influences: examples are management decisions regarding maintenance of organizational assets and working atmosphere (e.g. structure and culture).
- 3. (Unsafe) supervision: With no or insufficient supervision, the worker is not corrected if he/she does something wrong. Another example is a known problem not being fixed.
- 4. Preconditions: the reason why the unsafe act was made; for example, time pressure, improper equipment, fatigue and inexperience.
The seven most common causes of accidents in the workplace are:
- Poor housekeeping or lack thereof
- Starting a task before getting all necessary information
- Neglecting safety procedures
- Mental distractions
- Lack of preparation
This list shows the relation between the four slices and most common causes for accidents. With this, you can conclude that not one of the accidents is caused by a single slice. For example, if a person starts his job without the proper information, who is to blame? The worker? Yes and no. The first question we should ask is “Why?” Why did he/she not get the information? Did he/she get the wrong information? Was he/she forced to do something he/she did not understand, and/or was he/she afraid to ask?
If we look at the development of standards, we see that the safety requirements are the past accidents. The accidents are investigated, and, hopefully, the cause is found. If the accident occurs more frequently, the standard is changed. Of course, the standard is not only based on accidents, but also on the innovation of products. Standard writing is an ongoing process that takes several years for even a single edition.
With the introduction of the Lifts Directive in 1995, the minimum requirements for lifts were determined by the essential safety requirements as mentioned in the directive. These requirements were translated in the standard EN 81-1 and -2. These standards are normally applied for new installations only. In North America, the ASME A17.3 was introduced in 1986, but requirements for existing installations were already considered as early as the 1925 edition of ASME A17.1.
Existing installations can be modified, of course, but it depends on the willingness of the owner of the installation and national requirements. It became clear that something had to be done with existing installations, so a list of 10 essential requirements was made. This resulted in EN 81-80, also known as the Safety Norm Existing Lifts (SNEL), being published in 2003.
National authorities determine whether this standard is applied. For example, the Dutch government left it to the responsibility of the owner of the lift. In France, a mandatory five-year plan to modernize all existing lifts for public and residential buildings was introduced.
In the installation of a new lift, the hoistway is typically finished first. Because of improper protection, many accidents happen in the vicinity of this big tube of concrete (or other material), which has holes in the side for landing doors and reaches all the way from the top of the building to the pit. Here, too, there are differences between countries. In the U.K., all hoistway accesses have metallic- type swing-door protection. In other countries, just three beams, a handrail, an intermediate bar and a kickboard are provided.
During installation, the workers have a deadline, and when things go wrong, the delivery time does not change drastically. Therefore, people may be incentivized to take shortcuts. Even when there is no deadline, however, people are trying to do their work the easiest way. So, instructions need to be logical and understandable to prevent shortcuts.
Our products are used by millions of people every day. Manufacturers are responsible for the safety of these people. I have never seen a person read any instructions before entering an escalator or lift. Still, the manufacturers trust we can operate and use these products safely. The contact time between the escalator/ lift and the person using it is very short. Therefore, the product needs to be intrinsically safe. To that end, we need to know what the person will do in a certain scenario. Not all people behave in the same way, especially among different countries or cultures. Still, we use one lift and one escalator standard almost everywhere in the world.
As explained before, the contact time with our products is very short. So, if we want to inform the user, we need to do this before they use our products. In this case, a manual will not do the trick. In the standards, we focus on the owner’s manual for information concerning the safe use of our products, but how the owner informs the user is not clear. This is a point where much can still be achieved.
Integral Safety Vision
In the integral safety vision, the focus is to get the message correctly to the person involved. This means we must consider human behavior and culture. One of the first things to consider is the way of informing the users. Do we write a manual, or do we use drawings? A great example of easy-to-understand manuals are those made by IKEA. No words are written in them, so they are universal. The question is, can this type of manual be used for our line of products?
We can use pictograms, and some lift manufacturers have made their manuals like IKEA’s. However, does the product lend itself to having a manual consisting of only pictures? The assembly of a bookcase is different from installing a lift. Users’ minimum required educational level also needs to be considered. So, it is necessary to add text to clarify the meaning of the pictures.
The use of text leads to another problem: language. Vital mistakes can be made in translation, and something important could go missing. Sometimes, the language of the country is not enough. An example of this would be in some embassies.
The next step is to make the manuals clear and easy to understand. So, no complex wording or jargon can be used. For example, there are many refugees in the world. These people speak a foreign language and may never have seen a lift or escalator and may not know how to use one properly. We do not take this into consideration in the risk assessment for these products.
There is also still the issue of whether the manual is read by the user. Escalators are installed around the world. Can the pictograms you can see when boarding an escalator properly instruct on how to behave when riding it? One cannot be sure if everybody looks at these, because, nowadays, we stare at our phones or are having conversations with friends while entering the escalator. Then, for example, we have parents in malls who even tell their children to go play by the escalator. An escalator has a brake path of three to four steps. Childrens’ arms and legs are not that long. So, we must make people aware of the risks — not only with escalators, but also with lifts.
Safety Programs and Events
The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) was founded in 1991 to inform children how to ride escalators safely. In 2014, Liftinstituut started a safety campaign to inform the public in the Netherlands about the safe use of lifts and escalators. A week of safety awareness every November is organized in North America and the Netherlands by the respective organizations. Liftinstituut focuses on a certain topic to inform the public. Its first safety week in 2014 was about the safe use of the escalator. The next year was about how to behave in the lift in case of a malfunction.
When organizing an event like this, you must consider who you want to reach. So, if we want to reach children, a radio or TV commercial may not be the right approach, as this would work better with adults. For children, the best place to teach them about lift and escalator safety is at school, so Liftinstituut developed a program for the safe use of escalators, which can be integrated into school lessons. Liftinstituut also arranged a temporary lift in a city square and let people experience first-hand how it feels to be entrapped to inform people on how to react in the situation.
Of course, the results of any program may not be the same everywhere. And, as explained before, it may need to be developed in multiple languages. To develop these kinds of programs costs a lot of money. Some governments will not prioritize lift and escalator safety. The EESF in North America, for example, depends completely on donations. Liftinstituut thinks it is its task to provide safety for people who use lifts and escalators.
We need to do more than just comply with the standards to improve the safety of escalators and lifts. People’s behavior is part of their culture, which may cause differences in the effectiveness of methods to improve safety. With products being installed worldwide according to the same standard, we may overlook certain risks unintentionally. Therefore, a manufacturer has to consider more than just safety standards and provide manuals.
The interaction time of the user with lifts and escalators is very short. The user is not always properly informed. As people are assumed to know how to behave around and operate these products, there is a limit to the effectiveness of the provided information by the manufacturer/installer. This is the reason why there is a need for informing users in other ways. The introduction of a safety week is a good way to bring attention to the risks involved in the use of lifts and escalators. These programs must match the culture of the country and the intended people.