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Safety Measures can Prevent Slips and Falls on Stairs

While slips and falls are the top causes of accidental non-fatal injuries in the United States, these accidents also can be fatal. More than 13,000 Americans 65 years and older died as a result of falls in a recent year, and more than 1.8 million had a fall injury resulting in a visit to the emergency room. Falls in particular are responsible for more open wounds, fractures and brain injuries than any other cause of injury, according to the University of Virginia Health System.

GuideOne also has found that slips and falls are the number one cause of injuries on church property. These injuries can be the result of numerous factors, including inadequate lighting, poor construction or upkeep, slippery floors, loose floor coverings, housekeeping issues and missing or damaged handrails. The following is an example:

A woman grabbed onto a railing while she was descending the church stairs, and the railing gave way, resulting in her fall. The railing also fell on top of her. She lay on the ground for 45 minutes until someone found her. The fall caused her to fracture her hip, as well as a hairline fracture of her left ankle. The railing was missing screws and was not securely attached.

Accidents like the one described above can have major consequences for both church liability and the health and safety of church congregation members. Stairs are one area of a building where a number of falls can occur. Fortunately, slip and fall accidents on stairs are preventable. By promoting stair safety procedures, slips and falls from stairs can be avoided. The following are some safety recommendations:

  • Stair treads should be used to ensure that stair surfaces are anti-slip;
  • Stairs and landings should never be used for storage or placing materials that could become obstacles;
  • Handrails should be adequately secured in place, easily reached, in good position for grasping, and be available on any flight of stairs with four or more risers;
  • Lighting should always be provided for stairwells to allow users to see their way as the go up or down;
  • If needed, provide a light switch at both ends of the stairs and always inspect light fixtures to ensure that they are in good working condition;
  • Routinely check the safety and condition of stairwells and immediately make any necessary repairs;
  • Allow for additional means of carrying large objects from one floor to another instead of trying to carry them up or down flights of stairs, including ramps, dumbwaiters or elevators;
  • Promptly clean up any spills, especially wet spills, on stairwells and remove ice and/or snow from outdoor stairs;
  • Place doormats at all entrances to avoid tracking water and debris onto the floor and stairs; and
  • Make sure any stair lifts are properly maintained and easy to use.

Remember: it is better to be proactive than reactive in safety situations, so be prepared!

For more information on how to prevent slips and falls on stairs, including a complete list of preventative safety measures and stair design standards, refer to the Slip and Fall Prevention: Stair Safety (PDF) fact sheet available on the SafeChurch website. You also are encouraged to print this Slips and Falls Infographic as a friendly reminder for your church.

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.