Updated, noon Friday:
Nicholls State University announced Friday that it is banning hoverboards and similar self-balancing electric scooters from campus because of safety issues, including concerns about hoverboard-related fires.
The decision came after consultation with the Nicholls Office of Environmental Health and Safety, university President Bruce Murphy said in a notice sent to students, faculty and staff. "Your safety — and the safety of our campus community — is always our top concern," he said.
According to the policy, using, charging, possessing or storing hoverboards or electronic skateboards will not be permitted on campus grounds or inside campus buildings, including residence halls. Is says the university may reassess the policy pending the establishment of "adequate safety standards" for the devices.
Two more Louisiana universities on Thursday joined the list of colleges nationwide banning hoverboards on campus, and three others are considering similar action following scores of injuries and fires related to the devices.
More than 30 universities have banned or restricted the hands-free, battery-powered scooters on their campuses in recent weeks, according to The Associated Press.
LSU notified students last week that the use, possession and storage of hoverboards and other electronic, self-balancing devices would be prohibited on campus until safety standards are developed and implemented across all models.
“These devices’ batteries can burst into flame — especially while being charged — resulting in a metal fire that can burn with intense heat,” LSU officials said in a Dec. 30 letter to students. “We are not willing to risk your safety and your community’s safety.”
Southeastern Louisiana University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette announced similar bans Thursday, urging students to leave the devices at home when they return to campus for spring classes, which begin next week.
Officials at Southern, Nicholls State and Tulane also are considering policy changes to ban hoverboards, spokesmen for the universities said Thursday.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating 28 fires in 19 states, including two in Louisiana, and more than 70 emergency room-treated injuries related to hoverboards, Deputy Communications Director Patty Davis said.
Davis stressed, however, that the number of injuries reported includes only those treated in the 100 hospitals across the country that have partnered with the commission to report product-related injuries.
“We use those numbers to make national estimates, but we hadn’t seen any hoverboard-related injuries prior to August, so not enough time has passed yet to make that estimate,” Davis said.
Some of those injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures and internal organ injuries, CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in a Dec. 16 statement. CPSC engineers are testing new and damaged boards to determine why some models caught fire during the charging stage and others caught fire while in use, Kaye said.
Hailey Smith, a freshman biology major at UL-Lafayette, said the college bans are overly restrictive. A dozen or more students were using hoverboards on the Lafayette campus without incident before the semester break, she said.
“If people would take care of their hoverboards more, not leaving them to charge all night like with cellphones, then they wouldn’t overheat,” Smith said. “I think, yes, we should have at least a few regulations here and there, but just banning all hoverboards or any smart technology used to get around campus is absolutely ridiculous.”
Smith and her roommate both received hoverboards for Christmas to help maneuver around campus.
“I just started at ULL and made a schedule that was not so walking friendly,” Smith said. “My mom gave me the hoverboard to help me get from one end of campus to another.”
Smith hopes family in Iota, about an hour’s drive from Lafayette, will keep her hoverboard for her until the university lifts the ban. Otherwise, she would have to make the 31/2-hour trek home to Shreveport to use it.
“I’ve been very cautious with the fact that some have been known to catch on fire,” Smith said. “But reading articles about it, it seems that it’s the ones that aren’t name brands, that are made by other companies without the proper parts, that are known to overheat.”
Southeastern spokesman Rene Abadie said the Hammond campus has not had any incidents involving hoverboards, but safety concerns did lead to the change in policy.
“Our main intention, as always, was the best interest of our students,” Abadie said.
Other universities issuing bans include the University of Alabama, University of Kentucky, George Washington University and American University, the AP reported Thursday.
At Ohio State University and at Xavier University in Cincinnati, students were told they can bring a hoverboard to campus only if it came with a seal showing the board meets certain safety standards, according to the AP.
The devices also have been banned by the three largest U.S. airlines and are prohibited on New York City streets. A new law in California requires riders to be at least 16 and wear a helmet when riding the devices in public.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.