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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
No more deaths in escalator accidents
    2015-08-03  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Lei Xiangping

    lagon235@163.com

    NOWADAYS, escalators have brought great convenience to people’s lives: If we want to take subways, shop in a mall or go to work in a high-rise building, it seems we can’t do without them. However, if escalators are poorly maintained, they could turn into a severe threat to our lives.

    On July 26, 30-year-old Xiang Liujuan from Jingzhou City, Hubei Province, was killed in an escalator accident when she was shopping at a mall with her son. Surveillance video footage that captured the horrifying moment showed a floor plate collapse when she stepped off the ascending escalator. She immediately pushed her child into the arms of a staff member at the top of the escalator just before she fell through. Within seconds, Xiang was swallowed by the merciless machinery and separated forever from her family. A preliminary investigation showed that human error was to blame for the accident because mall staff had already reported the loose floor plate but failed to turn off the escalator or block shoppers from using it.

    It is a sad story, mingled with heart-wrenching maternal love and regrettable sentiment that has left many people asking questions such as “why wasn’t the loose floor plate reported to maintenance and fixed” or “why didn’t the mall staff know what to do when an escalator malfunctions.”

    Even though many people have blamed the mall staff for not doing more to prevent the tragedy, more focus should be paid to escalator supervision and maintenance.

    There are many safety precautions already in place to prevent such tragedies, but every one of them failed Xiang.

    First, the escalator should shut off automatically when something falls into the machinery, but when Xiang fell through, this didn’t happen.

    Second, before the accident, maintenance had just been carried out on the escalator and workers forgot to screw the cover plate back into place. This is inexcusable negligence.

    Third, in an emergency, all escalators are equipped with stop buttons at the top and bottom — only about 10 centimeters above the footplate — but no staff members did that, even though there were as many as three standing at the top of the escalator because they knew something was wrong. Even though this means that the mall didn’t train their employees on how to do this, such common sense shouldn’t require special training. Human life is precious, and deaths like this are completely preventable. The sad part is just how common these types of accidents and deaths are.

    In recent years, there have been a number of escalator accidents. Since 2005, over 40 escalator accidents have taken place annually — 28 people were killed in escalator accidents in 2012 alone. Four people were killed in three accidents during three consecutive days of May 2013. Even the day after the Jingzhou accident, a 1-year-old baby was swallowed by an escalator and his right arm was injured in Wuzhou City, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Many of these accidents are directly related to poor maintenance.

    These accidents should serve as a wake-up call that escalator safety should be rigidly enforced. To maintain escalator safety, maintenance companies and escalator owners should cooperate in making sure their escalators are properly maintained. Users should report every problem in detail to maintenance providers quickly. Escalator owners should make sure building employees are trained in how to shut off escalators and report emergencies. Escalators should be routinely inspected and have to meet high standards of operation.

    Another thing that needs to be done quickly is holding people bearing liability in the accidents accountable. Traditionally, escalator tragedies have been defined only as “accidents,” and the conventional solution for tragedies is to reach a civil compensation agreement with the victims or their families. In most cases, no one is held criminally liable.

    This simplified solution circumvents one fundamental aspect — escalator accidents are threatening public safety because of intentional dereliction of duty, either by the maintenance companies or by escalator owners, which should instead be defined as a crime. Any irresponsible party should be punished severely by the law or else they won’t take their duties seriously.

    Nothing we do will bring that young mother back to her family, but the least we can do is learn from this tragedy and prevent others from happening. From now on, no more deaths by escalators, please!

    (The author is an editor with the News Desk at China Radio International.)

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