Is the use of smart phones causing incidents on passenger ropeways?

Every year, Technical Safety BC receives notifications of incidents that have occurred while a passenger is unloading from a chairlift. Most of these incidents involve a passenger getting off the chair late or not being prepared to unload.

In the past ten years, the use of smart phones have greatly increased. Passengers are often seen talking, texting, using social media, emailing or playing games on their phones. Many also use them to take pictures and videos, some even attaching them to selfie sticks.

Does the increased use of smart phones contribute to unloading incidents on passenger ropeways? Just as we know distracted driving or distracted walking can lead to accidents, we also believe distracted riders on passenger ropeways can result in incidents. 79% of passenger ropeway incidents occur on chairlifts and 20% occur while unloading from a passenger ropeway. 60% of these incidents are determined to be caused by passenger behaviour.

While completing operational inspections of passenger ropeways this season, our safety officers will be watching for passengers unloading from chairlifts to determine instances where the use of smart phones while unloading is prevalent and if is contributing to incidents or near misses.

If further research shows a correlation between smart phone usage and unloading incidents, Technical Safety BC may issue an information bulletin and recommend changes to the CSA Z98-14 Safety Standard for Passenger Ropeways and Passenger Conveyors. We may also recommend additional signage relating to the use of electronic devices while loading and unloading from a passenger ropeway.

Passengers riding chairlifts or any passenger ropeway or conveyor should read all warning and instruction signs. They should be prepared to load as they approach the load area, use the restraining device (safety bar or footrest) while riding on a chairlift, and put away all items, such as smart phones, when the “Prepare to Unload” sign is seen. The restraining bar or other restraining device should be raised only when the “Raise Restraining Device” sign is seen. Only once passengers arrive at the “Unload Here” point, should they stand up and glide away from the chair and clear the area so that others may unload as well.

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