Montreal

Escalator accidents happen every 2nd day in Montreal Metro

STM launched safety campaign after Naima Rharouity's 2014 death, but few commuters know about it

Côte-des-Neiges metro station

The STM has logged 626 escalator accidents between January 2014 and June 2017. On average, that's an accident on a Metro escalator every second day in Montreal. (CBC)

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Despite a safety campaign following the 2014 death of Naima Rharouity, whose hair and clothing were caught in an escalator at Fabre Metro station, the number of accidents on Montreal Metro escalators has remained constant.

From the beginning of 2014 until June 2017, the STM logged 626 escalator accidents. 

That's an average of nearly one every second day on the Metro system's 296 escalators. With approximately 900,000 Metro users a day, the STM claims its escalators are among the most used in Canada.

STM escalator accidents

Close to half of the Metro's escalator accident victims suffered serious enough injuries that they needed to go to hospital by ambulance.

"It's really a lot," said commuter Christine Sicard, shocked when told of the number of accidents.


Falls account for 70% of injuries 

Commuters falling is the most common cause of injury on escalators: Falls account for 70 per cent of escalator accidents over three and a half years.

Between 2014 and May 31, 2017, 450 people fell.

Just over half of those falls resulted in visible injuries, according to information obtained from the STM by CBC Montreal Investigates. However, the STM doesn't track details of the injuries.

A frequent Metro user, Sicard thinks she knows why these falls happen.

"There's always one side of the escalator where people aren't moving," said Sicard. "On the other side, people are going up or down quickly."

If someone steps out of that line without looking over their shoulder, there's a good chance a collision will happen.

Christine Sicard

Metro user Christine Sicard was shocked at the number of people who are hurt on the Metro's escalators, but admits she sees accidents waiting to happen everyday. (CBC)

Another commuter, Alba Gil, says the sheer number of injuries is unfortunate but not surprising.

"It just makes me think we are always in a rush, and we are not even paying attention to anything around us," said Gil.

People fall up, too

Perhaps surprisingly, almost as many people had accidents on escalators going up as going down.

Over that three-and-a-half-year period, 262 accidents happened on ascending escalators — just 33 fewer than the number of people who were hurt on descending escalators.

Almost as many people fell going up an escalator as the number who fell while going down.


"That's an insane amount," said Marc Milette, who was passing through Côte-des-Neiges Metro station.

He's seen people trying to run up the escalator the wrong way or slide down the middle section. He hasn't witnessed an accident but knows that kind of behaviour is unsafe.

Falls aren't the only accidents.

Four people had a hand or foot caught, and 42 people got their clothing snagged over the same period.

2014 death prompts safety measures

Following 47-year-old Rharouity's death in January 2014, the Quebec coroner made a series of recommendations to improve safety on Metro escalators.

Escalator falls

That same year, the STM started a campaign and posted numerous signs promoting safety tips.

Those tips include:

  • Do not carry heavy bags or packages that block your view or cause you to lose your balance.
  • Avoid running for or on the escalator. 
  • Face forward, because turning around to chat with a friend can cause falls if you aren't paying attention.
  • Do not leave your child in a stroller while ascending or descending. Instead, take the child in your arms and ask for help with the stroller.
  • Do not let children sit on escalator steps.

CBC contacted the STM to comment on this story, however officials refused interview requests.

Alba Gil, who often travels by Metro with her small son, seems to be one of the few commuters who knows not to keep her child in his stroller on the escalator.

"But a lot of people do," said Gil. "I guess that's because there's not a lot of elevators at every station, and it's hard to travel with a kid in a stroller."

Naima Rharouity

Naima Rharouity left behind her husband and two young children when she died after being strangled by her hair and clothing on an escalator at Fabre Metro station on Jan. 30, 2014. (CBC)

More visibility?

Although there are signs posted in some Metro stations outlining proper behaviour on escalators, most people CBC spoke to had never seen or noticed the safety campaign.

All of the commuters said they'd like the safety signs to be more visible.

After CBC showed them copies of the signs, one suggested the STM should also include a sign that warns people to stay off their cell phones when using escalators.

5 top stations for accidents

In 2016, the top five Metro stations for escalator accidents, per 100,000 daily entries were:

  • Jean-Talon.
  • Charlevoix.
  • Frontenac.
  • Côte-des-Neiges.
  • Namur.
STM safety campaign

The STM's safety campaign includes ads that implore Metro users to avoid running on the escalators, loose clothing and sitting on escalator steps, among other measures. (STM)

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