Friday, November 02, 2007

Reducing Slips Trips and Falls in Stairways

Designing the workplace to avoid slips and falls ...

"Millions of people are treated for fall-related injuries. An expert offers tips that you can do to help reduce slips and falls.

With over 8 million people treated for fall-related injuries in 2004, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal unintentional injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms, according to the All Injury Program, a cooperative program involving the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A combination of deficiencies in design, lighting, visibility and attention are usually the culprits in stairway slips, trips and falls.

To help reduce these accidents in your operation, outlined below are recommendations for safer stairway design, maintenance and use.
Riser and Tread Design

Research has shown that during stairway use, pedestrians view only the first and last three steps, with the rest of the stairway negotiated without looking. Therefore, design of the top three and bottom three steps is very important.

More serious upper and/or lower extremity injuries occur when traveling down a stairway than when traveling up a stairway. In stairway descent, the tread depth – or horizontal surface – must be adequate for the ball of the foot to land on the tread without extending over the step below. If not, an over-step or misstep can occur, causing a fall forward. Trips and falls that occur during stairway ascent are often attributed to variation in riser, or vertical surface, height.

The current recommendations for riser and tread dimensions state that:

* All tread and riser dimensions should be uniform throughout the entire stairway. Most building codes require risers not to vary more than 3/8 of an inch between the tallest and the shortest riser within a given flight of stairs;
* Riser heights should be 4 inches (10.2 cm) minimum and 7 inches (18.0 cm) maximum. Minimum tread depth should be 11 inches (28.0 cm), exclusive of overhang;
* Tread surfaces and floor surfaces leading to the stairway should be slip-resistant;
* Stairways with more than 12 steps should have an intermediate landing. Landings should be void of any raised areas or trip hazards.

Stairway Visibility

Poor visibility of both risers and treads can lead to misreading the stair edge, which can cause faulty foot placement and an accident. To increase visibility:

* Provide visual contrast on tread nosings, or at the leading edges of treads without nosings, so that stair treads are more visible for people with low vision. Surfaces colored safety yellow are the “most visually detectable,” according to the U.S. Access Board Research.
* In low light areas, highlight each step using step lighting. Additional lighting guidelines are found below.
* Post signs calling attention to the stairway at waist height on the approaches from both directions."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Usability Resources]

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