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5 Reasons Stairs Are the Most Dangerous Place in Any Home or Building

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction found in 2022 that 42% of homes in the West South Central region of the country, which includes Oklahoma, had two or more stories. Nationwide, nearly 50% of all homes have two or more stories. In addition, most apartment buildings and townhouses are multi-story, as are many office buildings.

While multi-story homes and buildings help builders and property owners maximize their land usage, they also require stairs for occupants to get from one floor to another. While many of us don’t think twice about going up and down stairs at home or at work, it’s important to recognize the potential dangers that lurk in and around stairwells.

In this blog, we’ve identified five key reasons why stairs are often the most dangerous place in any home or building.

1. Lack of Proper Maintenance

One of the primary reasons stairs pose a high risk of injury is the lack of proper maintenance. Over time, stairs can become worn and unstable, with loose or broken steps and handrails that make it difficult for people to walk safely and steadily.

Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure that stairs remain in good condition, but unfortunately, this is often overlooked by landlords and property managers. Steps should be repaired immediately when they become loose or broken. Even stairs that become slightly wobbly or develop small chips in them can be dangerous, while excessively loose or broken steps are significant fall risks.

2. Inadequate Lighting

Inadequate lighting can significantly increase the danger of using stairs. Poorly lit stairwells make it difficult to see obstacles, uneven steps, or changes in the tread, leading to slips, trips, and falls.

Proper lighting is essential to highlight the path clearly and reduce the risk of accidents, especially in areas where stairs are frequently used in low-light conditions. It’s important for stairwells to be evenly lit on all flights and landings, and for enhanced safety, lights should be placed on risers to help people see where they’re stepping.

3. Slippery Surfaces

Stairs can become hazardous when the surfaces are slippery due to spills, wet conditions, the use of inappropriate flooring materials, and wear and tear over time. Slippery surfaces greatly increase the chances of slipping and falling, which can cause severe injuries, particularly if the fall is from a significant height.

It’s important for property owners to choose the right materials for stair surfaces and ensure they are kept clean and dry to prevent accidents. In addition, landlords and building managers should avoid using certain types of paint, sealants, and cleaners on stairs to avoid making them slicker and more dangerous.

4. Missing Or Improper Handrails

Handrails play a crucial role in stair safety, as they provide support and stability for users as they ascend or descend. A lack of handrails, or the presence of improperly installed or maintained handrails, can lead to a loss of balance and falls.

Handrails should be sturdy, at the appropriate height, and accessible on both sides of the stairs whenever possible to maximize safety. Wall-mounted handrails should be inspected and checked regularly along their entire span to ensure they’re stable and properly secured to the wall, while stair-mounted handrails should be connected to support posts to ensure they can support the weight of people using the stairs.

5. Poor Design

Finally, the design of stairs themselves can contribute to their danger. Stairs that are too steep, have uneven risers, or are too narrow can be difficult to navigate and increase the risk of accidents. In the U.S., the standard height for stairs is between 7 and 7 ¾ inches at most and no shorter than 4 inches, while the minimum standard depth is 11 inches. 

It’s important for each step in a home, apartment, office, or commercial building to meet Oklahoma’s building code, which includes the following requirements:

  • Stair treads and risers must be of uniform size and shape.
  • The difference between the largest and smallest riser height and tread depth must not exceed 3/8th of an inch in any flight of stairs.
  • A single flight of stairs must not have a vertical rise greater than 12 feet between floor levels or landings.

In addition to being uniform in size and of reasonable height, depth, and width, stairs should also have visual cues like contrasting colors on their edges to help people see where one step ends and the next begins.

Injury on Stairs? Contact Our Oklahoma Slip & Fall Injury Attorneys.

Stairs are most dangerous for people of advanced age and people with impaired mobility. However, they can be dangerous for anyone who uses them, especially when they are negligently designed, built, or maintained.

While slips, trips, and falls can be painful and disabling anywhere they occur, falls on steps can be devastating and even fatal. If you or someone you love was injured while walking up or down defective or poorly maintained stairs in a home, apartment, office, or commercial building, the Oklahoma slip & fall injury lawyers at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers want to help.

We’ll review the facts of what happened and the stairwell where you fell to collect evidence that proves the home or property owner was negligent. Then, we’ll fight to get you maximum compensation. Contact us today for a free case review.