A Human Factors Perspective to Investigate Escalators Incidents

  • Philip John Beards

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Public spaces such as shopping centres offer economic, social, and environmental benefits to society. To ensure persons can enjoy the use of these spaces without fear of in- jury, legislation exists within the United Kingdom that requires owners to identify and miti- gate any potential hazards. An escalator is a common feature to many urban public spaces such as shopping centres and airports and provides a convenient means to transition be- tween floors. Yet, incidents can and do happen on escalators that can lead to life changing injuries such as amputations and/or even fatalities. Surprisingly, despite widespread adoption of escalators, research into the cause of injuries is limited. The concern is such that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the regulator for health and safety legislation in Great Britain commissioned a shared research programme aimed at adopting a human factors approach to identify the performance influencing factors (PIFs) which could lead to escalator incidents. To address gaps in current understanding, this thesis aims to produce a new investigative taxonomy, designed for identifying PIFs for incidents involving members of the public. A sequential mixed methods approach was adopted to account for current human factors theoretical perspectives and ontological viewpoints to ensure multiple data sources are considered.
The thesis produced a taxonomy that was successfully applied to high and low sever- ity escalator injury data from multiple sources across the United Kingdom. Using multiple correspondence analysis, it was demonstrated that escalator incidents are multifactorial events with a combination of PIFs leading to an incident. Further, observational analysis of 4,716 escalator users using the taxonomy provided insight to escalator near misses (a prelude before an incident), again indicating such events are multifactorial. Further, the observational study provides a baseline of how persons use an escalator without incidents, a
novel and missing component of escalator incident research. A subsequent qualitative study exploring the views of those over the age of 65 as the most frequently reported injured per- sons in escalator incidents was conducted to provide further insight on the prior studies.
The results of this study highlighted escalators to be selected as they are convenient with a lack of consideration by users to being injured on escalators despite the awareness of the need to step accurately onto the moving surface and the challenges of age-related decline in coordination abilities.
Overall, this thesis provides a new innovative taxonomy as means to investigate incidents involving members of the public and applies this to the under researched area of escalator incidents. In so doing the thesis provides increased knowledge to escalator incidents, to wider academic falls literature, duty holders, and the regulator to better inform prevent and mitigation strategies.
Date of Award19 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMatt Miller-Dicks (Supervisor), Chris Mills (Supervisor) & Amy Drahota-Towns (Supervisor)

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