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Prevent Falls On Your Stairs

Updated on June 7, 2017
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As I've discussed previously, falls are the biggest hazard that people, especially seniors, face in their home. Slips and trips can be especially hazardous and common on stairs; this is particularly true for stairs that aren’t well maintained. With more and more aging adults insisting on living in their own homes for longer, it is incredibly important that their environment be as safe as possible.

Here are some factors that can help you prevent a fall on the stairs:

Proper height

Make sure when building or repairing stairs that they are safe and up to code.
Make sure when building or repairing stairs that they are safe and up to code. | Source

If you are building stairs, make sure you are building them safely – Stairs should have an incline between 30 and 35 degrees and the bottom and top risers should all be the same distance apart. Irregularity in steps over an inch are a big cause of falls since your feet don’t know where to step. According the OHS standards in Canada, risers should be between 12.5 and 18 cm (about 5 and 7 inches, and again, all the same height), the width of the stairs should be 90 cm (3 feet) and the tread run should cover the width of the stair. Stairs should be covered with a non-slippery surface.

Declutter

Keep everything off the stairs! – Pets, clothes, toys, knickknacks, it doesn’t matter. 28% of stair falls are caused by articles left there according to Cornell University. The only thing that belongs on your stairs is your feet. Before you walk up, look for fall hazards and get them out of the way if you can, clean up messes like spills, shoo pets out of your walking path, make sure nothing is on the stairs!

Handrails are your friends

Handrails are especially important when you've got oddly shaped or old stairways.
Handrails are especially important when you've got oddly shaped or old stairways. | Source

Get Proper handrails – If you don’t have them already, handrails need to be along the entire stairway and should be three or four feet above the stairs, at the height of an adult elbow, consistent throughout. Handrails are meant to be able to grab on to quickly and firmly if you start losing your balance. Ideally, they should be able to support your weight to help break your fall. When you are on the stirs, you should be able to grasp it from beginning to end without changing your grip.

Repair or install treads

Broken or eroded tread needs to be fixed or replaced – Slipping is the primary cause of stair falls. If your tread is broken or eroded, that makes it a trip or a slip hazard. Get rid of it and install new ones. Rubber or abrasive treads are the best, but if you are in between replacing the tread, anti-slip tape can be used.

Let there be light!

Adding extra lighting to your stairs increases visibility, thus decreasing your chance of falling.
Adding extra lighting to your stairs increases visibility, thus decreasing your chance of falling. | Source

Illumination Levels – Visibility on stairs is crucial, and lighting on them should never be dimmer than the rest of your house. Make sure there is a light switch at the top and bottom of your steps so you can light your way before going up or down.

Consider a ramp

See if you can get rid of that extra step in the hall or the doorway – If you have that one step that’s a doozy in your doorway or hall, see if you can get it removed or renovate it into a ramp.

Take your time

Be aware and safe when climbing stairs – apart from the stairs themselves, the number one factor for not falling is you. Take your time going up and down stairs, wear prescription glasses, but not reading glasses when climbing up and down stairs. Most importantly, be aware of your footwear – a no-slip shoe or slipper, or a sock with treads, can be the difference between a fall and making it up and down stairs OK!

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for these very helpful suggestions. Just the other day I refused to climb some stairs that had no handrails. I just don't play that.