Making staircases safer to use

Going up and down staircases can be a challenge for someone with a disability and all young children are at risk of falling down the stairs. There are many things that can be done to make negotiating stairs easier and safer and many of the basic improvements are inexpensive and easy to do. Start by flicking on a light switch.

 Improving existing staircases

  • Make sure stairs are well lit. If you cannot tolerate bright light, look into fitting some LED lighting on the staircase underneath the steps or on the side.
  • Keep stairs and landings clear. Make sure there is nothing on the stairs to trip over and remove any loose rugs or smooth out uneven flooring from the stairs and landing that could cause tripping.
  • Keep stairs dry and if possible, fit non-slip materials on the stairs and landing. There are many different anti-slip self-adhesive tapes on the market, like Sylglas’s 50mm x 3m rolls that come in clear or black.
  • Fit continuous handrails on both sides that can either be gripped or used for forearm support. The Centre for Accessible Environments provide details here that meet public use standards and although domestic staircases may not be adapted to this high level, the information is accurate and useful.
  • If handrails are contra-indicated or if someone is unable to use stairs at all, look into stair lifts and through floor lifts with the help of an expert in the field.

Tips for preventing falls

There are tips that can help prevent falls on any staircase:

  • Look at the staircase before using it. Note the distance between steps, any curves or changes in step size or height, where rails are fitted, whether there are any breaks in rails to be aware of and make sure the stair case is uncluttered, dry and safe to use.
  • Focus on the task at hand. Do not carry on a conversation or get distracted and take note of others coming up or down the same staircase and stand still to let them pass if they are a distraction.
  • Walk slowly one step at a time whilst facing forwards and holding on to any grab rails.
  • Look at your feet if you are uncertain or feel insecure.
  • If you had previous falls and have some anxiety around using stairs, ask someone to guide you down the stairs, making sure there isn’t any tripping hazard and warning you of any turns or unexpected changes.
  • Lift up loose clothing that you may trip on and for small children, check that their trousers are rolled up and clear of their feet and do not present an extra tripping hazard.
  • Don’t carry heavy items up or down stairs.
  • If you do fall, stay calm. Check first that you are okay. If you feel dizzy or disoriented, remain where you are or sit up and wait until it passes. Use whatever is secure around you to pull yourself up or ask for help if it is available. If you have injured yourself, seek help and treat it like any other injury.

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