Staircases may seem innocent enough, but they're actually a common cause of serious injury. In Australia, more than 500 people die as a result of falls in buildings each year, with accidents on stairs accounting for 60% of these deaths. When it comes to stair fall injuries, children and the elderly are the most at risk. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can take action to make the stairs in your home safer. Whether you're having a whole new staircase put in, or simply want to make some adjustments, the following tips will be a step in the right direction.
Install sturdy handrails
High quality, properly installed handrails are absolutely essential in keeping your staircase safe. A handrail provides something to grab onto after slipping or losing balance, allowing you to remain upright and avoid a serious fall. Rails should be installed on both sides of the staircase where possible, at a height that makes them easily accessible. The color of the handrail should contrast with the surroundings to make it easily visible - this is especially important if anyone in your home suffers from eyesight problems. A bright, light color like white will stand out well next to dark walls and carpets, and vice versa.
Ensure consistent step size
Steps which vary in size, tread and depth can be unexpected, and risk throwing the user off balance. Steep or curved stairs can be challenging for those with less mobility, and should be avoided - particularly if you live with young, elderly or disabled family members. Ideally, both the tread, (the horizontal area you walk on), and the rise, (the vertical plank between each stair), should be the same size. This ensures that there are no nasty surprises leading to a trip or fall. If equally sized stairs aren't possible, then it's even more important to follow the other safety tips to make up for this.
Consider color and lighting
A badly-lit staircase is an accident waiting to happen, especially when other risk factors like inconsistent step size are present. You should install lighting that illuminates the entire length of the staircase at all times. Don't rely on the light from large windows, as this is no use at night or on overcast days. Choosing contrasting colors for the tread and rise of your stairs helps users to clearly see where one step ends and the next begins. You can achieve this effect by painting wooden steps, or using specially designed carpet. Consider installing tread covers made from a material with strong grip, with a border to indicate the edge of each step, for maximum safety.