Stairway Safety

  • Safe Steps to Reduce Falls

Millions of Americans are only a step away from becoming victims of the leading cause of unintentional home injuries - slips and falls. According to The State of Home Safety in America (2004) study conducted by the Home Safety Council, falls are by far the leading cause of unintentional home injury death. Falls account for an average of 5.1 million injuries and nearly 6,000 deaths each year. The vast majority of fall deaths occur among people age 65 and older and fall death rates are higher for males. In an effort to reduce injuries among people of all ages, families are encouraged to identify and correct potential slips and falls hazards in and around the home.

  • Home Safety "Walk-Through"
  • Walk through your home to identify and remedy potential slipping, tripping and falling hazards. What to look for:

  • All stairs and steps should be protected with a secure banister or hand-rail.

  • Make sure all porches, hallways and stairwells are well lit. Use the maximum safe wattage in light fixtures. (Maximum wattage is typically posted inside light fixtures.)

  • Use nightlights to help light hallways and bathrooms during night-time hours.

  • Keep stairs, steps, landings and all floors clear. Reduce clutter and safely tuck away telephone and electrical cords out of walkways.

  • In homes with children, make sure toys and games are not left on steps or landings. When very young children are present use safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs.

  • Use a non-slip mat or install adhesive safety strips or decals in bathtubs and showers. If you use a bath mat on the floor, choose one that has a non-skid bottom.

  • Install grab bars in bath and shower stalls. Don't use towel racks or wall-mounted soap dishes as grab bars; they can easily come loose, causing a fall.

  • Install window guards to prevent young children from falling out of upper windows. (Select guards with emergency-release devices.)

  • Keep the floor clean. Promptly clean up grease, water and other spills.

  • If you use throw rugs in your home place them over a rug-liner or choose rugs with non-skid backs to reduce your chance of slipping.

  • Use a sturdy step stool with hand rails when climbing is necessary.

  • Follow medication dosages closely. Using multiple medications and/or using medications incorrectly may cause dizziness, weakness and other side effects which can lead to a dangerous fall.


  • Stairway Safety

According to the Home Safety Council's national report on home injuries, the State of Home Safety in America (2004), falls accounted for nearly one-third of all unintentional home injury deaths each year. Falls from stairs and steps were the second leading cause of death due to falls. Follow these steps to stairway safety to make your home safer from falls:

  • Use the handrail. (All stairways and steps, no matter how short, should have handrails on both sides.)

  • Install bright lights and on/off switches at the top and bottom of each stairwell and over porches and entryways.

  • Keep stairways and steps clear of all objects. Never use the stairs as temporary storage or for displaying decorative items.

  • Check stairs for worn or loose carpeting or protruding carpet tacks. If your steps have a smooth surface, consider installing anti-slip tread to provide safer traction.

  • Paint the bottom basement step white to make it more visible. Mistaking the lowest step for floor level can cause you to lose your balance and fall.

  • In homes with young children, use safety gates at the tops and bottoms of stairways.

  • Wear footwear with traction. Avoid wearing socks or smooth-soled slippers, which can slide out from under you on bare floors.

  • Avoid carrying vision blocking loads. Carry a small enough load up and down stairs that you can see where you are stepping and can easily keep one hand free to hold onto a handrail.

  • Avoid placing throw rugs at the top or bottom of a stairway as small scatter rugs can slide or the edges can become curled. If it is necessary to put a rug at the bottom of a stairway, make sure it has a skid-resistant backing and use carpet tape to keep the corners from curling.

  • If you have steps outside your home, keep them free of ice and snow. To prevent a tripping hazard, periodically check steps and walkways for broken or lose bricks, cement or stone.

  • Stay Fit to Prevent Falls
  • If you require eyeglasses for vision enhancement, use them. Consider keeping a spare pair of glasses near your medicine chest to ensure you can accurately read the labels on your medications before taking them.

  • Talk with your pharmacist and physicians to ensure that all your prescription medications are being tracked and that there are no contra-indications when multiple prescriptions are taken.

  • The risk of falling is increased by illness, fatigue, and lower extremity weakness. Researchers agree that staying healthy and fit can help prevent falls. Strengthening exercises can help. Gentle exercise programs such as Tai Chi have been shown to improve balance and strengthen muscles safely.

  • Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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