Whether they’re at home or at the office, stairwells can be a major safety hazard. If one’s not careful, falling from a flight of stairs can cause serious injury. For businesses, this becomes even more of a problem when you consider potential property damage and personal injury claims.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to improve stairwell safety. In this blog, we will cover a variety of preventative measures that you can take to ensure the safety of employees or housemates. We will look at the use of anti-slip tape, tactile indicators, general cleaning routines, and lighting.
So, without any further ado, here are five ways to improve stairwell safety.
- Install floor safety products
The use of floor safety products is particularly important in public and commercial settings like schools, offices, libraries and so on. These places often have high pedestrian traffic and will therefore require as many precautionary measures as possible. Floor safety products usually come in the form of stair nosings, treads and anti-slip tape. For the best results, it is recommended that these products:
- Extend across the entire width of the stairway
- Have a non-slip surface
- Have a high-visibility coating
In addition, they should be cleaned regularly so that dirt or moisture doesn’t build up on the surface. If the tread gets too dirty, it could compromise its anti-slip properties.
Additionally, tactile indicators are needed in public places as they allow the visually impaired to know if their pathway is about to change levels. Such products should be installed in places like train stations, parking lots or shopping malls.
- Use handrails
If we trip or slip while on the stairs, we’ll need handrails to help us keep our balance. In order to be effective, handrails need to have a number of safety features.
According to AS (Australian Standard) 1657, a handrail should be between 900mm and 1100 in height (i.e. from the stair nosing). This will allow most adults to comfortably reach the rail while walking down the steps.
Any stairway that is wider than one metre should have two handrails on each side. Also, if there is an adjacent structure, you must ensure that it is at least 50mm of clearance from the handrail.
The rail itself should be shaped so that most adults can firmly wrap their hand around it. Typically, handrails are circular or rectangular in shape. If you’re going for a more ornate design, just make sure that the rail has no sharp edges that could injure someone’s hand. Additionally, make sure to design it so that you’re able to run your hand along the entire length of the rail without obstructions.
- Improve visibility
Everyone will be a lot safer if they can see where they’re going. So, when it comes to your stairway, lighting and visual distractions are two factors that you need to consider.
Whether it’s at home or at the office, a stairway needs adequate and even lighting. As much as possible, you should avoid instances where shadows and glare affect the visibility of both the handrails and the steps themselves. If you need to, you can include local lighting on your stairway. For this purpose, LED strips are the most common choice of lighting.
You should also consider the placement of contrasting materials. If you’re using high-visibility anti-slip tape or tread, you should place it at the edge of the step to reduce the chances of over or under stepping.
When it comes to the design of the steps themselves, avoid patterns that affect depth perception. If you can, try to keep the aesthetic of your steps as simple as possible for optimal visibility. In addition, you should be able to see the handrails properly. This means it should be colored in such a way that contrasts with its surroundings.
- Use appropriate signage
Sometimes, signage is needed to let people know that they’re about to trip over the stairs. Oftentimes, people don’t notice short stairways that only consist of one or two steps.
To prevent people from tripping over short stairways, you should place a high-visibility caution sign nearby. A simple ‘watch your step’ sign should suffice. Generally, they should be placed near eye level so that it’s easier to see. That being said, you should avoid placing too many posters or warning signs around stairways. They could become a distraction to users and cause them to lose their footing.
If possible, it’ll also help to change the material of the flooring to indicate a change in levels. For example, you could have a lower level that has white tiles and an elevated platform that’s covered with a deep red carpet.
- Proper maintenance
Unfortunately, time will eventually undo all the preventative measures that you’ve taken. The treads will become worn out, the carpet will fade and, depending on the material that you’ve used, your handrails might start breaking down. Because of this, you need to make sure that you have a proper maintenance routine for your stairway.
Developing a cleaning routine is a good place to start. If you have carpet, make sure that it’s vacuumed properly. A dirty, worn-down carpet may affect the visibility of the material as well as its surface grip. Floor safety products like treads and nosings should also be maintenanced and cleaned regularly to ensure that they’re functioning properly.
If the carpet, the tread or the nosing is showing major signs of damage, replace them as soon as you can. A loose carpet or a loose tread can easily cause someone to slip and fall.
According to Safe Work Australia, 56% of slip and falls in the workplace are caused by environmental factors. This suggests that how you physically organise your place of business has a huge impact on worker safety. Therefore, you should do everything that you can to ensure the environment at work (or at home) is as safe as possible. Luckily you can start doing this by simply implementing the stairwell safety tips that we’ve provided above.