10 – The Department Of Escalating Safety

In 2015, Transperth published a video to their YouTube channel teaching people how to ride escalators safely.

The video, appropriately titled Escalator Safety, has been viewed almost 30,000 times.

With a catchy jingle and erstwhile characters, the video is an innovative example of escalator safety messaging.

The campaign also included posters inside Perth train stations.

Image: Reddit


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Credits & Thanks

Geordie Crawley

Charlotte Hayes, Transperth

Gemma & Laura, Transperth

The Escalator Safety video

How nine-year-old schoolgirl Megan’s brilliant ‘hold on to the escalators’ safety warning at busy Victoria station has slashed injuries by two-thirds, Daily Mail

Featured Image: via Transperth


Geordie: Hey my name is Geordie Crawley. I’m an actor and theatre maker here in beautiful Perth, Western Australia, and I was featured in an escalator safety video that Trans Perth made to promote the safe use of escalators in our fair city

Music starts

The video is called ‘Escalator Safety’.

Geordie plays the role of Terry from the Department of Escalating Safety. He and his colleague, Jerry, teach a group of people how to ride escalators safely.

Terry & Jerry take their jobs way too seriously.

You know they’ve seen some bad things happen on escalators and all they want is for the people in their class to avoid doing the same thing.

Audio from YouTube video:

Terry: Firstly, escalators are tremendous

Jerry: Yes, but our escalators are faster and so need to be respected. Our job is to keep you and those you travel with, safe

Terry: Please, take notes

I asked Geordie if he did anything special to prepare for the role of Terry.

Geordie: You know in many ways my life has been in preparation for this role. Every time I’ve ridden an escalator I’ve said “hot darn these are dangerous machines and somebody should be doing an ad campaign to promote the safety of them” and so when I was finally offered the opportunity to be a part of it, it was like my life had led up to this amazing moment. Umm no. I just kind of learned my lines and arrived and gave it a red hot go.

Music starts

You’re listening to People Movers: a podcast highlighting the impact of escalators on everyday life. This episode is about escalator safety campaigns.

Music fades out

Charlotte Hayes is the Information and Event Services Manager at Trans Perth.

They’re the group that look after the bus, train and ferry services in Perth, Western Australia.

A few years ago, The Safety and Strategy Team at Trans Perth asked Charlotte to run a campaign about how to use escalators within the Trans Perth network.

Charlotte: At first she was a bit unsure about whether or not people actually needed a campaign to teach them how to use escalators, until she learned about what was actually happening on their escalators.

They started to present us some stats around the number of trips and falls we have on our escalators and you know there was a variety of reasons and one of those is the elderly people and there was about 30 percent of incidents involve those groups.

And so it was about “how do we do a campaign to tell people how to use our escalators without it being teaching people to suck eggs if you like.

Music starts

This conversation is probably going on in workplaces across the country.

“We have a problem and we need to fix the problem, but how?”

Sometimes, it works.

Last year, a new safety announcement played in the Victoria Station of the London Underground. It was voiced by a nine year old named Megan whose parents both work for the train station.

Around 250,000 people pass through Victoria station each day and before the announcement up to 15 people were being injured at the station each month.

After the announcement had been running for 6 months, Transport For London reported injuries had reduced by two-thirds.

There are heaps of ways the brief from Trans Perth could’ve been interpreted.

So where did the idea for the Department of Escalating Safety come from?

Charlotte: We sat down with our advertising agency and we’ll write a brief and we’ll say okay these are the key messages that we want. This is the sort of way that we want you to approach it. I said to them “Look I don’t want to straight corporate video here on how to how to use an escalator because I don’t think that would resonate that well.”

They’d come back and say “well we’ve got a number of ideas we can we can how we can approach this.” We then say well you know what, We think this is the best approach, which was this idea of the Department of Escalating Safety. So you know creating those two characters, Geordie being one of them. It is a bit satirical but this idea that there would be a department of escalating safety and that you know these these people would be very very erstwhile and they’ve they’re really passionate I guess about escalators and about ensuring that people travel with them you know travel safely on them.

After Jerry & Terry warn their class about the dangers of escalators, they teach them four key steps for escalating safely.

Audio from YouTube video:

Jerry: Rule one – escalate your attention

Terry: Rule two – when you finish the ride, step aside

Jerry: Rule three – never fail to hold the rail

Terry: Rule four – can’t escalate? Elevate

Music from video fades out

Charlotte: And then we sort of had a funny idea and we thought wouldn’t it be great to have a musical interlude so rather than just a straight video which is the “never fail to hold the rail” song which is a little bit of an earworm I’ve got to say Lindsey ,once you start singing that it sort of sticks with you and I think I was singing that for a good six months after I am after we finished shooting that ad though.

Audio from YouTube video:

Never fail to hold the rail

You won’t slip

When you grip

That black strip

What a delight to stay upright

That’s it mate

Stay up straight

All together now…

Never fail to hold the rail

You won’t slip

When you grip

That black strip

Terry and Jerry are nerds, but they mean well and they have no shame whatsoever in what they’re teaching.

I asked Charlotte what they were looking for when they were casting for the roles of Jerry and Terry.

Charlotte: We wanted a younger and an older person because we quite like you know that juxtaposition I guess so not just two older people. We wanted people that were, the case of Terry, the younger ones, just someone who is just really uber excited. So it’s almost like the one who’s really serious if you like and then you’ve got the uber-excited puppy you know who’s like Oh my God I’ve got all these great ideas. So that’s how we approached it and we had that view that that’s what we wanted to do. And so we go out with a talent brief if you like to casting agents and say look this is this is the sort of thing we’re looking for: a younger person, this is their character. And we wanted someone, we wanted people that were approachable so not too glammy. Sorry guys if they’re listening but no one too glamorous. We wanted people that you know that people could just warm to I guess. If you thought “oh there’s a Department of Escalating Safety” they’re the sort of people that would come to mind that would work in that department.

Trans Perth have over 50 videos on their YouTube channel, but none of them are quite like the escalator safety video.

Their other videos include updates about line closures, information in different languages and Trans Perth staff answering common commuter questions, like “why does my bus service run late?”

The escalator safety video stands out, not only because of how silly it is, but how many times it’s been seen.

The video was uploaded in 2015 and since then it’s clocked almost thirty thousand views on YouTube.

When I would show people the video for the first time, some of them wondered whether it’s actually trying to teach people escalator safety, or just trying to have a laugh.

But Charlotte thought if the escalator video was more serious, commuters wouldn’t engage with it.

Charlotte: Yeah look I mean there’s a time for you know being serious and it is a serious message, clearly, you know we don’t want people to be hurt on our escalators, they do travel a little bit faster. So this isn’t your typical you know Myer escalator going up in the middle of Myer or David Jones here these these escalators are built to move large volumes of people quickly so they do move faster than the average escalator and so you know it is important for people to understand that and so for some people and particularly those where mobility may be a slight issue or depth perception, they may be used to an escalator moving at a particular speed and so therefore they misjudge you know that escalator. So instead of being very matter of fact “Okay our escalators move at X meters per second blah blah blah.” You know I didn’t think that was sort of the way to tackle this particular issue.

We thought it is a serious message but we weren’t flippant about it but it was about trying to be more engaging in the key messages that we wanted people to take away which is how we want you to be on our escalators. So you know holding the hand rail, paying attention to getting on and getting off the escalator so things like that. We were very…we thought now playing it with too straight a bat really wasn’t the way to go.

Maybe it’s because I personally feel so comfortable on escalators, but I was surprised there was such a demand for escalator safety messaging. But Charlotte said it wasn’t so much about people not knowing how to use escalators, but commuters being in the habit of using escalators in a certain way. And it’s this behaviour that causes accidents.

Charlotte: One of our biggest challenges is people know getting people to sort of look up and smell the roses if you like. They get to the bottom and they go “I’m just propping here” not recognising that it could cause a problem for other people. Unfortunately not everyone’s very altruistic like that and it’s not about “oh I’ll move down because it gives someone else an opportunity to get on the platform. It’s probably more “I’m standing here because I’m going to get onto the train. I know the train door stops here” and there’s very much a lot of that behaviour. I mean especially in the commuter part of our market. Whereas they have honed their skills and this again would be no different to anywhere anywhere in Australia or indeed overseas where they have honed their commuting skills over many years and so they know exactly where to stand because either that’s exactly where the electronic gate is when they get off at the other side so they can tag off on our electronic system very quickly and get out of the station or they know where the train door’s going to stop. So we’re having to compete if you like with that behaviour. So it doesn’t surprise me.

Charlotte said it was difficult to measure the impact of the video because while trips and falls have decreased, Trans Perth are also going through an escalator replacement program so the number of escalators on the system has actually reduced.

But with new people joining the system all the time, Charlotte said the message is still relevant three years later.

Considering how popular the video has become, I wondered if Geordie was ever recognised when he was out and about in Perth?

Geordie: The real question is when am I not getting recognised? I can’t go into Perth without being hounded by the paps or being asked to autograph a boob. Someone bought me an escalator once and I was like “it’s too big” but that’s okay. No I’ve never been recognised.

Geordie is primarily a theatre maker, but if Terry’s job was real, would he want to do it?

Geordie: Hmmm like an escalator safety officer? Um do you know what? Who am I? Who am I to take the job of someone like you, an escalator enthusiast away? You know I feel like it would be unfair of me to swoop in and take that role when I’m sure there’s someone waiting in the wings who wants it so much more who is sitting there every day dreaming of escalators?

Are you suggesting that person is me?

Geordie: Look I’m not saying anything, I’m not going to tell you what you should do with your life, but I think you should definitely write up like a job proposal to your local public transport authority for an escalator safety officer and I have no doubt it would both pay well and be well appreciated by the people in the public.

Whether you make a video about it or broadcast a special announcement, escalator safety should be taken seriously.

I asked Geordie to recall his time in the Department of Escalating Safety, and offer advice to all the escalator riders out there.

Geordie: Be safe out there people. Escalators aren’t a joke. The escalators are a tool, not a toy. Let’s always remember that. If I could get a tattoo on my forehead it would be “escalators are a tool not a toy”

Music starts

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For the first 10 people to leave me a review on Apple Podcasts, I will send you a few limited edition People Movers stickers to say thanks. This is open to anyone, anywhere in the world. Just go to Apple Podcasts, write a review and send me a message on either on Instagram or my website to say you’ve done it.

Some of the music in this episode was provided by Tim and Dave of Umbra. Find them on Facebook at facebook dot com forward slash umbra duo.

Additional music credits can be found in the show notes.

The Trans Perth video Geordie stars in, is called ‘Escalator Safety’. You can find it on YouTube.

Until next time – start paying more attention to the escalators around you. You might be surprised by what you discover.