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How to design a safe stairway

An unsafe stairway puts everyone at risk. Though we negotiate the stairs many times per day, you should never underestimate the danger. One slip is all that it takes. A fall can lead to a brain injury, a skull fracture, a spinal injury or even death.

If you have ever slipped on a single stair and caught yourself on the next step, you know how fast it can happen. As you stand there with your heart hammering in your chest, you think of just how badly it could have gone. It happens without warning and you could fall a significant distance on a very hard and unforgiving surface.

To prevent falls, how should businesses, apartment buildings, public spaces and other areas design their stairways? There are a few key steps to consider.

Proper lighting

The first thing that the staircase needs to have is proper lighting. When people can’t see, they make far more mistakes, even if their muscle memory is quite good. Stairway lighting needs to be bright and clear. It needs to be set up to reduce shadows that can make it hard to see defined edges. Moreover, the lighting needs to be even and repairs need to be made any time a bulb burns out or stops working.


According to EHS Today, people generally do not look at the entire staircase. They just look at the first three steps — at the top or the bottom, depending on which way they’re moving — and the last three steps. They do not look at those in the middle, instead using muscle memory to take those steps safely.

Therefore, the first and last steps need to reflect what the person can expect to find for the entire distance. They need to be in good repair. Uniformity is also very important. Every step needs to be exactly the same height as the last. If not, even the smallest difference can cause someone to trip.


Stairways can become safer with the addition of landings. Many experts suggest never putting in more than a dozen steps without a landing.

For one thing, the landing can break up the stairs and draw the person’s eyes back to the first and last steps. However, perhaps more important is that they break a fall in the event that one happens. The person may still get injured, but their injuries may be less severe if they only fall for 10 or 12 steps, rather than 30 steps all the way to the bottom.

Injury compensation

Have you gotten injured on poorly designed or maintained stairs? If so, you need to know if you have a right to compensation for your injury and your medical bills.


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