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Code Corner

Code Corner 2005.3

Code Corner by Patrick J. WelchRequirement: Floor Opening Protection Adjacent to Escalator Wellway

Floor openings adjacent to the entire length of the escalator wellway shall be provided with protection in accordance with the applicable building code.

It is important to understand that this requirement means that the length of the wellway, from top to bottom must be protected. This is not stipulating how to protect the upper or lower ends of an escalator as they pierce a floor to another landing. These two sketches illustrate the point:

Escalator Wellway protection area

The area between the arrows above needs to be protected in accordance with local building codes. What this means is that a handrail or other means of protecting people from falling over the side of the escalator (with a lower handrail height limited to a maximum height of 1m).

This rule came about during harmonization with the Canadian B44 elevator/escalator code as a result of fatalities in Canada and in the United States. This requirement will be difficult in certain atrium installations in malls, retail stores, hotels, airports, and transit applications. Protection similar to what we illustrate below will be required. This sketch illustrates two key points:

Escalator Handrail illustration

  1. Where the handrail or balustrade would need to be installed.
  2. You can’t connect to the escalator itself to provide this balustrade or handrail. There is not a single escalator manufacturer that we have found that will permit this type of protection to be attached to their escalator.

The rules within the A17.1 Code are intended to be clear and unambiguous, but there are often unintended consequences to the rules that leave the reader confused as to the intention of the Code. Each subcommittee of A17.1 addresses interpretations at their regular meetings before any new business to help assure a prompt and responsive clarification.

For example, in 2004 a request for interpretation was submitted on this requirement. A question came up from a designer who thought that the intent was to protect the escalator wellway at the top landing only. Another designer on the same project felt that the wording required the protection of the opening along the inclined portion of the escalator. This is an important distinction because long escalators could have 50 to 100 more feet of handrails. Couple this requirement with the riddle of how to support that handrail and it is easy to see that a clear interpretation was required.

The request for interpretation became Inquiry 03-44 and was first submitted on July 24, 2003. The committee met and discussed the rule at length at the regularly scheduled meeting in October 2003. The subcommittee was unable to come to a resolution so the inquiry was postponed until the next meeting in February 2004.

Upon further consideration, and a lot more discussion and debate, the subcommittee approved a response that the rule does require protection along the full length of the wellway. The Standards Committee approved that response unanimously in May 2004.

This rule and subsequent clarification has a significant impact on building designs with escalators. This is not work that the escalator manufacturer is going to do. Each building design with an escalator that is not directly against a wall will require protection of some significance.

Most malls, department stores, airports, and sports facilities will be affected by this new rule. We hope that this column helps shed light on this new requirement and how it may affect your project! VTX

We at VTX®┬ádeal with code issues on a regular basis. It is very likely that your question is not new to us, and we can help quickly. It is not uncommon for us to bring a request for interpretation for our clients before A17.1. Just remember that ASME wants the requirements to be clearly understood, so get it clarified, it could dramatically affect your project or operation!