Bellevue Square Escalator Accident Linked to Safety Maintenance Violations: L&I Investigation Report

escalatorAccording to results of a Department of Labor and Industries investigation, Bellevue Square escalator that malfunctioned and injured seven shoppers several months ago wasn’t up on 32 of the state’s safety codes.

L&I investigators report that three of the escalator’s safety-stop systems failed to work when a loose “panel skirt” snagged on the moving stairway, jamming the mechanism and snapping the escalator’s chains, which then causing the stairway to pile on itself between the ground and first floors of Macy’s. The incident occurred on December 6, right at the beginning of the busy holiday shopping season.

The escalator halted only after a bystander punched the manual stop button, as the L&I press release stated.

On the night of the accident, immediately after the popular “Snowflake Lane show” which attracts tourists and holiday shoppers, the escalator at Macy’s Bellevue Way entrance folded on itself at the top of the steps. At first it was reported that four people (including two young children), suffered injuries, but L&I reports that seven people were injured.  Two of those were workers, and are now in the process of filing a workers compensation claim for the injuries.

Daniel Kao, a Washington resident and Twitter user posted a photo of the malfunction immediately after it occurred.

According to Bellevue Collection officials at the time, the escalator that broke down has been in the Bellevue Square Macy’s since it was built in 1982.

Fifteen of the 32 code violations were directly related to the accident, according to L&I.

Among the violations, there was a failure to properly maintain the device according to code, as well as a failure to conduct the mandatory annual safety test in April 2012. The investigation indicated that maintenance contractor Schindler did not perform the required maintenance and safety checks that could have prevented the accident, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.

“This is a public safety issue,” said Jose Rodriguez, Assistant Director for Field Services and Public Safety in a prepared statement. “L&I will hold this company accountable for its maintenance responsibilities.  We are looking for a commitment from Schindler that it will do what the law requires to keep our citizens safe whenever they step onto an escalator or elevator.”

From the state’s press release:

Rodriguez said L&I will now require the company to clearly outline the steps it will take to bring all of the escalators and elevators it maintains up to the state’s safety codes, and will be continually monitoring the company to ensure it carries out the corrective actions.  If the company fails to do so, L&I has the authority to suspend or revoke the company’s license to operate in the Washington.

Soon after the Bellevue Square malfunction, L&I ordered Macy’s and Schindler to conduct internal safety inspections of the mall’s three other escalators with state inspectors present.  Those checks also revealed numerous safety problems, which were fixed before they went back into operation.

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Emery Reddy