RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After a Dillard’s store service technician fell to his death while working on an escalator, investigators are working to determine if the tragedy could have been avoided.
As the Richmond Fire Department’s 10 a.m. response quickly turned from rescue to recovery in the escalator trusssh, 8News began asking what circumstances lead to the unidentified man’s death.
Late Wednesday evening, a store communications representative said the man was a “valued, long-time” associate, hours after RFD identified the man was a technician working on the escalator.
“Dillard’s is tremendously saddened by the death of one of our valued, long-time associates and continues to offer our sincere condolences to his family. We are working with local authorities to investigate this tragic event.” -Dillard’s Corporate Spokesperson Julie Johnson Guymon
One shopper stopped before entering the department store said they had “heartfelt sympathy, and hopefully they have got a good support system in place.”
The primary cause of the equipment failure is unconfirmed, and the situation is quite rare. However, escalator deaths have happened before.
“Working on a escalator is always dangerous. Many, many years ago I lost a friend of mine that was working on an escalator,” Frank Christensen said; president of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.
Christensen told 8News strict safety measures must be in place prior to escalator service repairs.
OSHA, the workplace incident agency now investigating, details ways to prevent falls; including ‘barricades’ around openings.
“Anybody working on an escalator must have those barricades on, and when they get in the unit, that escalator needs to have the main line shut off,” Christensen said.
According to Christensen, IUEC training apprenticeships last four years. And, while local IUEC #51 did not respond to 8News, Christensen says he heard from their president and was told the man killed was not a member.
Member or not, Virginia law requires anyone working on an escalator to be certified, which includes at least three years in the elevator industry.
OSHA requires escalators to be “thoroughly inspected” every year, and less-thorough reviews should be conducted monthly, with nearby public signage listing service dates.
8News submitted a request for official inspection reports to city hall Wednesday afternoon.
A corporate spokesperson for Dillard’s did not respond to follow up questions if their technician was certified, if they primarily worked at the Stony Point store or worked at several Dillard’s locations.
The last workplace death OSHA reported in Richmond occurred last January, when a worker died after falling from a ladder.