Stairways – Fall Prevention
Stairs with all
types have been used since old times and they have caused several hazards. People
fall from them, get hurt or even they get killed. Most of the stairway falls
happens because people lose balance. Falling down from stairs can cause major injuries.
The stairway falling patients are having higher mortality rates than non-stairway
fall patients like who those fall down stairs like victims of car or motor
vehicles accidents, burns or any other types of falls…etc. In fact, millions of
people are treated for fall related injuries as stairways falls cause a significant
high number of head injured patients who in several cases have head trauma
There are several causes
for stairways falls as some falls happen because people feel dizzy or fainting.
Most of the falls happens with the residential stairways. Researchers found out
that most of the falls on stairs are either because of slipping which is the
primary cause of stair falls as most of them happens when people are walking
down the stairs, another one is the absence of handrails which cause a high
number of falls on stairs which result in several injuries. Also, unexpected
location of stairs result in many falls. For instance, stairs of just one or
two steps in a hallway or a doorway can cause several hazards in particular (Stair
Stair design, stair
construction and maintenance, stair placement, stair use, handrails are some of
the main reasons of causing accidents that contribute to stair falls.
Stairs especially with
one or two steps cause a high number of falls. This is a design feature. Thus,
if you are planning to have an extension or addition to a building you need to avoid
differences in floor heights that require these few steps. Treads that are less than 9″ wide cause the
highest number of missteps. Research indicates the fact that the riser heights between
6″ and 8″and tread widths of 10″ to 13″are most comfortable
for most people (Stair Safety…P3)
Best stair dimensions are
a 7.2 inch for riser height with either an 11 or 12 inch for the tread width. These
dimensions should be used for designing stairs when considering remodeling or replacing
a stairway. Sometimes carpenters or contractors use old traditional in accurate
building formulae, so a high attention should be given if adding or replacing any
Generally, a good design
can reduce the possibility of falls as it can provide us with ways that can
keep our balance using the stairs yet the best designs cannot eliminate falling
hazards totally. The need for proper design also applies to ramps. The fact is
that some incidents can be caused by inattention, unsafe behavior or even
because inappropriate footwear.
One of the most important
safety factors in the stair construction is having a dimensional uniformity in
the tread widths and riser heights. A 1/4 inch difference between adjacent
riser heights can cause an accident. Existing stairs that do not have uniform dimensions
cause real hazards, such stairs should be replaced with correctly built stairs.
Several reasons can cause tripping or slipping hazards, so stairs should be
kept clear and the broken treads should be replaced or repaired immediately as
well as any torn carpets because they cause hazards. Accidents can be more
preventable by adding non-slip surfaces on treads. Broken lights over the
stairs or a poorly lit stair cause fall hazard, stairways shall be well lit.
Sometimes people are not
aware of the presence of a stair as it can be with the same color and texture
as surrounding surfaces and they can be poorly lit or marked which can cause difficulty
to see. That can cause people not to see that there is a change in the floor
level. By adding visual clues can give people attention to the stair or by
changing floor materials and colors for example can help people to identify the
change in floor levels. Providing handrail for one or two step stair is truly necessary,
but railing that protrudes from the wall surface adjacent to the stair give a clue
to people for its presence.
Stair handrails helps in preventing
falls when a loss of balance happens for users going up or down using stairs;
they help users to quickly rebalance after slipping (Handrails Templer, 1992).
A research done by McKee
and Verney (1988) recommends that the height of the balustrade should be from
36 to 40 inches to be effective in preventing falls with the descending stairs,
however the height of handrails developed by the national laws and state
building codes require a height of 30 to 34 inches. Generally, the “Human
Factors Design Handbook” suggests a high handrail of 34 inches; overall the
dimension falls within the range required by most of the building codes.
The power grip optimizes the
grip forces in the hand while the round shaped handrails with a diameter of
about 1.5 inches maximize grip forces for adults and a diameter of between
1.125 and 1.25 inches maximizes grip forces for children.
While the rectangular shaped handrails are usually easier to hold than round
shaped railings, but these handrails require a pinch grip which is the least
effective grip to maximize the gripping forces in the human hand (Stair Safety…P3).
on the stairs kill and injure many people in the United States each year by
taking a human factors approach to stair design, construction and maintenance,
many falls can be prevented.
Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational
Health and Safety. “Stairways – Fall Prevention : OSH Answers.” Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational
Health and Safety, 23 Jan. 2018, www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/stairs_fallprevention.html.
Maki, B., and G. Fernie(1988). Biomechanical assesment
of handrail parameters with special considerations to the needs of elderly
users. Ottawa: National Research Council of Canada.
and George Brogmus. “Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls in Stairways.” EHS Today, 13 Apr. 2012,
Ragg, Michael, et al. “Analysis of Serious Injuries
Caused by Stairway Falls.” Emergency
Medicine, Blackwell Science Pty, 25 Dec. 2001,
“Safety on Stairs: Influence of a Tread Edge
Highlighter and Its Position.” Experimental
Gerontology, Pergamon, 25 Apr. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0531556514001302.
“Stair Safety: Causes and Prevention of Residential
Stair Injuries.” Housing Fact Sheets, pp. 1–6.,
“UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.” Occupational Safety and Health