Stairs have been used by humans for centuries and for just as long, humans have been falling off them thus stair safety practices are justifiably enforced in all places where there is potential for stair hazards.
In a study conducted by Cornell University in 1998 on “Prevalence of Stair Hazards in New York Homes”, the following stair hazards were identified:
Articles left on stairs
Loose/ torn carpeting
Tread badly eroded
Absence (or partial absence) of handrail
Bottom riser irregularity of more than 1 inch
Top riser irregularity of more than 1 inch
Riser irregularity of more than 1 inch in middle of run
The study showed that bottom riser irregularity accounted for 56% of these hazards. This data is important as it indicates stair dimensions playing a major role in the prevention of falls from stairs.
Common Elements of Falls on Stairs
Researchers have identified these elements which cause falls from stairs:
– Most falls occur when people are descending stairs
– Absence of handrails
– Unexpected location of stairs (e.g. stairs located too near a hallway)
Factors in Designing Safer Stairs
1. Stair Dimensions
Surprisingly, stairs that only have one or two steps are associated to more falls from stairs than ones with more steps. Below is an illustration provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) on the ideal dimensions of a stairway:
A – Optimal range: 30º-35º
B* – Handrail height: 80-96.5 cm
C* – Riser height: 12.5-20 cm
D* – Step width: 90 cm min.
E* – Tread depth: 23.0-35.5 cm
Within a staircase, treads shall have a uniform run and tread depth that does not vary more than 0.6 cm*.
2. Stair Surface
Non-slippery materials should be used for the entire step of a stairway, or at least on the landing edges of each. These could be made of rubber, slatted metal or slip-resistant paint.
3. Stair Handrails
Handrails prevent falls by preventing a loss of balance or by helping to regain balance after a slip. Most building codes uses the standard handrail height of 34 inches.
4. Visibility on Stairs
Mishaps causing twisted ankles, sprained knees or serious falls are significantly minimized when visibility on stairs is improved. Here are some basic tips:
– Stairways must be well-lit at minimum of 50 lux
– Use color contrasting to improve depth perception
– Avoid glare by using matte finishing on steps
– Users wearing bifocals should take extra care when ascending/ descending stairs
5. Work Activity
Encourage workers/ users to be cautious when using the stairs by:
– Always using the handrails
– Not carrying objects that require both hands
– Not carrying objects that obstruct line of sight
6. Good Housekeeping
Good housekeeping may be simple a task but taking on this habit plays a vital role in fall prevention. A few reminders:
– Inspect stairway surfaces to ensure there is nothing protruding that may cause falls.These could be nails, bolts, planks or splinters.
– Immediately clean up spills and debris
– Immediately repair or replace broken lighting
Fall prevention is the first step in fall protection in construction safety practices so well-designed stairways with raising awareness for hazards is the best approach in reducing workplace accidents.
stair safety- http://www.workplacelearningcentre.co.uk/get/image/productmedia/4c0273b4e40f9_ws81_jpeg.JPG
stair dimensions- http://images.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/stairs002.gif