Crocs and similar soft shoes linked to escalator entrapments

Consumer Reports News: May 20, 2008 01:19 PM

At first we thought that the stories we've been hearing about Crocs getting caught in escalators were an urban myth akin to alligators in the sewers. But recently, safety groups in the U.S. and Japan have issued warnings about soft-sided flexible clogs like Crocs and its imitators posing safety hazards to escalator riders. Typically, the shoe becomes entrapped when the rider is stepping on or off the escalator or standing too close to the side.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 77 escalator entrapment incidents have been reported since January 2006, half of which resulted in injury. All but two of the incidents involved soft-sided flexible clogs and slides such as Crocs. The CPSC doesn't reference the brand Crocs in its announcement but acknowledges that Crocs fall into the category of soft shoes they are warning about.

"This is a newer product on the market that poses a risk and we felt it was responsible to let consumers know," said CPSC spokesperson Julie Vallese. "It's not the shoe causing the injury but an unintentional risk when using an escalator."

The New York Daily News reported that a three-year-old girl was "severely and permanently" injured in November when her Crocs-clad foot became caught in an escalator at JFK airport, injuring her big toe. The Washington Post reported that a four-year-old boy wearing Crocs suffered an injured toe when his foot got caught on an escalator in a mall in Virginia last September. And after noticing an increase in soft shoes getting caught in the hard teeth of its escalators, the Washington Metro posted warnings about wearing soft-soled shoes on its moving stairways.

In Japan, where 3.9 million pairs of Crocs were sold last year, the Trade Ministry asked the Colorado-based maker of Crocs to change the design of its shoes after receiving 65 complaints of Crocs and Crocs knockoffs becoming stuck in escalators between June and November of 2007. Most of the cases involved young children.

When asked about the entrapments, a Crocs spokesperson said, "Escalator safety is an issue we take very seriously.  Safety experts say several factors can contribute to escalator accidents, including escalator design and maintenance, loose clothing or untied shoelaces, footwear and improper use."

Vallese says that the CPSC has warned about soft shoes and escalator safety in the past and felt it should renew its warning because of the number of incidents involving soft shoes and because now that the weather is warming more people are opting for lighter footwear.

Here are some general tips about escalator safety compiled from information offered by the CPSC and the Washington Metro.

  • Before climbing aboard, look to see where the emergency shutoff buttons are in case you need to stop the escalator. The buttons are usually at the top and bottom of each escalator and can be used to stop the escalator in an emergency.
  • Check the direction of the escalator before you take the first step.
  • To avoid the sides of steps where entrapment can occur, stand in the middle of the step. Always face forward and hold the handrail.
  • Step over the comb plate. Always pick up your feet and step carefully on or off the escalator. Never drag or slide your feet off the edge of the escalator.
  • Stay clear of moving parts. Keep your hands, feet and clothing clear of the side panels of the escalator. Remember: loose shoe laces, rubber boots and baggy clothes can get caught in the moving parts of the escalator. Make sure you have no dangling clothing or loose shoelaces that could get caught.
  • Always hold children's hands on escalators and do not permit children to sit or play on the steps.
  • Never walk up the down escalator or vice versa.
  • Do not bring children onto escalators in strollers, walkers or carts.
  • Stand upright. Never lean on the side of the escalator or sit on the stairs. Never ride on the handrail.
  • Do not run on an escalator.
  • Exit promptly from the escalator. Never stop, stand or play at an escalator landing; this can cause a dangerous pileup.

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