Code Corner 2006.2
Escalator Safety Zone and Retroactive Requirements of ASME A17.1 Part 8
In past Code Corner columns, we have addressed a variety of issues of concern to our clients. For this issue, there are no "hot topics" related to the ASME A17.1 Code that have been published or decided on by the A17.1 Standards Committee. ASME has strict rules on publication of sub-committee work prior to final approval, so we cannot discuss proposed rule changes or interpretations until they are voted on and approved by the Standards Committee.
We can, however, share some recently approved interpretations with our readers that may be of interest and use in your facility.
Escalator Safety Zone:
The Code is clear that each landing of the escalator must have a "safety zone" of twice the width of the handrails plus eight inches, outward from the end of the newel. Inquiry 00-08 concerned an enclosed head house or exit doors within that safety zone. If the exit doors have a panic bar that could not be locked, would they be permitted within that safety zone? A17.1 states, "If the doors can be closed while the escalator is operating and the open passage is less than the width between the centerlines of the handrails plus 8 inches".
The impact of this rule affects installation or replacement of escalators in existing structures. Often, newer escalators have more flat steps and are longer than the escalators being replaced. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission study on escalator accidents, since the most common escalator accident is a loss of balance or fall (not the most serious, but the most common), the safety zone is a critical design element to remember when designing escalators in existing buildings. Keep in mind that A17.1 clearly stipulates, "These dimensions are absolute minimums and every consideration should be given to traffic patterns."
Retroactive Requirements of ASME A17.1 Part 8:
Inquiry 04-14 raises the question about retroactive upgrades for elevators installed or modernized before the date of the standard publication if no other work is being performed. This particular inquiry relates to inground hydraulic cylinders, but the A17.1 response will resonate to many other circumstances. It is clear that the intent of Section 8.6 includes requirements for ALL elevators and escalators in a retroactive manner.
Careful review of this section is highly recommended for Owners of elevators or escalators to understand and plan for the impact this will have on your facility. One example is the escalator step/skirt requirement also included in Section 8.6. This is another retroactive requirement that impacts every escalator installed regardless of the installation date.
VTX is actively involved in several ASME A17.1 Code sub-committees precisely because of the ever changing and evolving requirements of this Code. Please do not hesitate to send a request for interpretation directly to ASME if you have any questions regarding any requirements in any edition of the A17.1 Code. You may certainly contact us with any questions as well.
We at VTX® deal 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!