Social Distancing on Escalators and Moving Walks

COVID-19 can spread from through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. The droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.

Escalator Use and COVID-19

The first risk of COVID-19 spread on escalators and moving walks can be very drastically reduced if not eliminated by practicing social distancing. If those riding on the escalators have difficulty gauging this distance then indication can be added steps that are 2 m apart.

Escalator Handrails contaminated with COVID-19

Several measures can be taken such as simply washing hands after travelling on escalators and don’t touch your face before washing your hands. Regular cleaning of the escalator will also help. Using gloves is another one. A more expense and recent application of technology uses a device attached to the handrail that sanitizing it using Ultra Violet light

What is the impact on capacity of social distancing on escalators?

The escalators and moving walks are critical to moving people through buildings and in particular within retail stores where there is currently an increase in customer levels. With the possible easing of lockdown coming soon, along with the re-occupation of commercial and other buildings, escalator use will be on the increase across the board.

How many people can escalators carry?

The capacity (persons/hour) of an escalator varies based on the speed and escalator step width. The environment (retail, transport, stadiums etc.) will have an effect also. Very broadly this varies from about 3000 up to about 5000 persons/per hour. But this is with people riding on the escalators standing closely together on adjacent or nearly adjacent steps. With social distancing the people will need to stand much further apart, perhaps 6 or so steps apart. The distancing is will reduce the reduce the capacity of the escalator by typically 3, 4 or 5 times less.

In environments where throughput matters such as transport hubs, retail environments and large offices this could will have a significant and detrimental effect on the operation of the building.

How can we help?

We would suggest as a starting point a COVID-19 Vertical Transportation Review. This is a service that reviews the circumstances in your particular building(s). Invariably it involves undertaking a traffic analysis to understand the reduced operating capacity of the escalators. The analysis will also include the lifts where installed.

We can then assist with coming up with a plan that works for your buildings and your occupants, recommending measures that can be taken to lessen the impact whilst always reducing the risk of the spread of this virus.

Our COVID-19 Services page provides more details on the related services we offer.

Covid-19 Services for Lifts and Escalators

Please follow the links below to related articles in our Topics section.

Lifts and Escalators, can they be kept COVID-19 free?

Lifts and Social Distancing

Please get in touch via phone or email or through our contact form and we will be happy to assist.