A travelator is a conveyor transport mechanism that slowly and safely moves people relatively short distances either along level ground or inclined distance, such as between two floors of a building. Travelators are used in shopping centres to move people to another floor with the convenience of being able to bring a trolley or cart. However, if not they are properly secured on the travelator, the law of gravity will take over and the trolley can potentially crash against anyone standing below. To avoid travelator trolley accidents, supermarkets employ a number of strategies such as:
1. Trolleys with automatic brakes that stops the cart once the handle is released
2. Trolleys that have specially designed wheels that locks in on the grooves of the travelator to prevent movement
In recent years much attention has been given to shopping trolleys and their use on travelators in shopping centres. Incidents, including a fatality involving the use of a shopping trolley on a travelator in South Australia, has highlighted the necessity for continued maintenance of trolleys at or nearby travelator sites.
Existing Australia and New Zealand Standard 3847.1 “Shopping Trolleys Part 1: For General Use” (currently nominated as withdrawn) specifies materials, construction, performance and testing requirements for shopping trolleys which are designed with or without a child carrying facility, for use by customers of self-service stores to carry goods. This Standard does not make provision for requirements relevant to trolleys for use on travelators. In the absence of such, the most relevant Standard available is BS EN 1929.2.
Standard BS EN 1929.2 refers to requirements, tests and inspection for basket trolleys with or without a child carrying facility, intended to be used on passenger conveyors. It provides specific details relevant to the commissioning, use, maintenance and repair of the shopping trolleys as well as the frequency of periodic tests and stipulates that the manufacturer of shopping trolleys provide such information.
In the provision of maintenance services to all makes and models of shopping trolleys available in the Australia marketplace over the past twenty year period, Complete Store Maintenance (CSM) is only aware of one trolley manufacturer who provides this information and is not aware of any retailer who has provided or currently provides these trolleys for use, that complies with the maintenance requirements set out in the manufacturers accompanying instructions for the use, maintenance and repair of their trolleys.
The Coroner’s investigation of the death of an elderly woman caused by a shopping trolley on a travelator, found that “it is quite clear that the left-hand braking device of the trolley used had no padding on it at all. This is not a case of a worn braking pad. There was no worn surface, the pad was missing altogether.” The Coroner concluded that the victims’ injuries were “sustained as a direct result of the lack of a proper brake pad, or any brake pad on the left-hand rear wheel of the trolley. But for the lack of a proper or any brake pad, the accident would not have happened”.
During the inquest it was also revealed, from CCTV footage, four other incidents at the same shopping centre in which customers had been injured in similar ways. Three involved the same retailer and the fourth involved another supermarket’s trolley. The Coroner stated that “each of the incidents described above was serious. In some cases the shopper was quite badly injured. They show that [the] tragic accident was not an isolated case”. Regular maintenance and repair of shopping trolleys, in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and relevant standards, is recommended to ensure trolleys are safe to put to work.
Changes to travelator wheel design has also increased the need for frequent appropriate maintenance. Travelator castors currently used by the majority of retailers have the braking mechanism located at the base of the wheel and requires the shopping trolley to be inverted for proper inspection for wear.
While the braking mechanism can continue to function as intended with some wear apparent, significant scoring will diminish the braking capacity of the wheel.
A visual examination of the wheel, without inverting the trolley, will not reveal worn or missing brakes. While the inversion of the trolley for proper inspection of the braking mechanism takes time and, if completed correctly, requires all shopping trolleys to be made available at regular intervals, this process is crucial to ensuring the braking mechanism functions as intended.
Further, wear to the travelator discs will also significantly inhibit the correct functioning of the braking mechanism. If the travelator discs become warped or burred, as can result from use in asphalt carparks, this may prevent the wheel from correctly seating itself in the travelator combs. If this occurs, the braking mechanism will not contact the surface of the travelator and, as such, will not function as intended.
Over time, CSM has noted a change in the quality of materials used in the manufacture of trolleys. Specifically we have found the material used for the brake to be softer and much more prone to wear over a shorter period. This advanced wearing of the braking materials, as well as the increased number of sites that employ travelators, emphasizes the requirement for regular proper inspection of travelator castors at all locations they are, or have the potential to be used.
It is important to note that Work Health and Safety legislation places legal obligations on designers, suppliers and manufacturers of plant and equipment (including shopping trolleys) to ensure it is safe and without risk and provide associated information about its safe use, maintenance, repair and any limitations. It also places legal obligations on persons or organisations in control of plant and equipment (including shopping trolleys) to ensure, as far as reasonable, that the plant and equipment is safe and without risk when used properly (this includes maintaining shopping trolleys in a serviceable condition as per the manufacturer’s instructions).
CSM is not aware of any retailer that provides travelator trolleys for use, undertaking a maintenance program consistent with the currently available manufacturer’s specifications or to the extent espoused in this article.