January 31, 2014 2:33 pm

Montreal scarf escalator death: Were safety regulations followed?

MONTREAL – The tragic death of a woman who was choked to death after her scarf was caught in an escalator is raising concerns about the safety of moving staircases in Montreal’s metro system.

At around 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning, a 47-year-old woman was discovered unconscious at the bottom of an escalator at the Fabre metro station.

READ MORE: Victim in Montreal scarf escalator death identified by coroner

“What we know now is that the woman’s scarf was caught in the escalator. When she bent over to try to get the scarf out, her hair was also caught,” Montreal police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant said Thursday morning.

Watch: Police give update on woman who died in the Montreal metro

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A spokesperson for Urgence Sante provided further details.

“What they found was a woman at the bottom of the escalator who was clearly trapped at the very end with what appeared to be a piece of clothing,” said Robert Lamle.

“Firefighters and paramedics immediately began reanimation efforts, but after going through our entire protocol, it was decided that she was not viable.”

Montreal police are working with the coroner’s office and the Régie du bâtiment du Québec to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the incident, including reviewing CCTV footage and speaking to witnesses.

Montreal transit authority response
Montreal’s transit authority has offered its condolences to those close to the victim.

“The STM offers its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the victim,” said Amélie Régis, a spokesperson for the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

When asked about the safety of metro escalators, Régis said that this did not fall under the jurisdiction of the STM.

“Safety regulations for escalators are put in place by the manufacturer and follow the rules issued by the building code,” she said.

Are Montreal’s metro escalators safe?
The Régie du bâtiment du Québec has published guidelines for the safe use of escalators and it maintains that escalators are designed and constructed in accordance with strict safety standards.

Régie spokesperson Sylvain Lamothe told Global News that since 1997, building code regulations require that all new escalator installations have an automatic shutdown feature when something becomes stuck.

“These regulations are not retroactive,” he said, noting that an escalator would need to be completely replaced since 1997 in order for the safety measure to be legally required.

He could not confirm whether the escalators at the Fabre metro station had been replaced in the past 17 years.

“This is a matter for the coroner’s office investigation.”

Contract for replacement escalators
In June 2013, the STM awarded a $23-million contract for the replacement of escalators to Global Tardif Inc.

A spokesperson for the company said that Global Tardif was simply the distributor and the manufacturing of the escalators had been subcontracted to Fujitec.

Last January, an Ontario court of appeal upheld three convictions against Fujitec Canada Inc., after an elevator in Toronto dropped several stories, resulting in serious injuries to five passengers.

Fujitec was forced to pay a total penalty of $500,000, the largest fine for a safety violation in the history of Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA).

Wilson Lee, the director of stakeholder relations at the TSSA told Global News that it’s been a decade since escalators in Ontario were required to have an automatic safety feature.

“In Ontario, escalators installed in the past ten years are required to have an automatic shutdown feature that is triggered when sufficient pressure is detected in the comb plate located at the top and bottom of the escalator.”

Do we need tragedy to force change?
Although there are currently emergency stop buttons at the top or bottom of escalators in Montreal metro stations, unless new escalators have been installed in the past 17 years, they are not required to have an automatic safety feature.

Last August, a 10-year-old girl’s foot was mutilated after being caught in an escalator at a Macy’s department store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey.

The horrifying incident and subsequent legal case led to a significant safety upgrade to the store’s escalators with the manufacturer, Thyssen-Krupp, installing a “comb plate safety switch” that would automatically shut down the escalator when something became stuck.

The fire in L’Isle Verte caused government officials to consider speeding up the installation of fire sprinklers in seniors homes.

Will this death in Montreal cause a rethink of building code safety regulations for metro escalators?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

- With files from Billy Shields

© Shaw Media, 2014

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