There is More to Stairway Safety Than You May Think

Take the stairs, they tell you. It is a healthy alternative to elevators or escalators. What could possibly go wrong? Hopefully, nothing, but it is worth noting that according to a study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, over one million people yearly are injured on or in stairwells.

Study Highlights Stairway Injuries

The very young and the older population are most likely to be injured, but most hospitals report that people of all ages sustain injuries while taking the stairs.

One study that looked at stairway accidents between 1990 and 2012 found that there were about 38 stairway-related injuries per 10,000 U.S. residents. That comes to about one injury every 30 seconds.

Women had a slightly higher risk of being injured, but it is unclear why that is. Younger children sustained head injuries more often, while older people suffered fractures.

The causes of injures varied, with some saying they were distracted, while others reporting that they slipped or mis-stepped.

Safety Codes for Stairways

But a mis-step may not always be as clear as it seems, and some may be blaming themselves when in fact, the stairs’ design could play a role in a fall. There are a myriad of building codes and regulations that go into stairway safety.

For example, every step must be the same height, and the stepping surface of each stair must be uniform. Otherwise, the brain can mis-judge and the musculature will not be able to react appropriately to allow a person’s weight to cleanly lift up or drop down to the next stair.

Stairs are often required to have a lining on the edge, to help the user determine where one stair ends and the other begins. Without it, an optical illusion can result, making it difficult to determine where one stairway ends and the other begins.

Stairs that are outdoors, and thus subject to the elements, must have a surface that maintains friction even in bad weather. 

Railings can Cause Problems

You probably know that stairwells need a handrail, but in many cases, building owners extend stairways or build a few steps, but do not bother to add to the length of the handrail.This leaves part of the stairway without handrail.

Handrails also must be a sensible height, allowing people of varying heights to use them. If they are not positioned properly, the user is left to contort into an uncomfortable position to grab the rail and navigate the stairs.

Even the width of the handrail must be calculated to allow the user to actually grab it. Handrails that are too thick or wide, or which may just be flat planks, do not allow for the user to actually wrap his or her hand around it.

Jury has Final Say

Remember that building codes are not the last word on stairway safety. A jury is, and a jury will be asked to determine whether a stairway was reasonably safe or not. Even a stairway that otherwise complies with building codes can still be dangerous in the eyes of a jury if the owner allowed the area to exist in a way that it was predictable that someone would be injured.

If you are injured due to a fall anywhere on someone else’s property, find out if negligence may be the cause. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your accident.