Due to their inherent dangers, stairways and unsafe patterns of use are the cause of a surprising number of injuries. A careful assessment of the risks posed by stairways can prevent unnecessary injuries.

While the residents of a house may be aware of their stair abnormalities, there guests may not be, listed below are some safety hazards which may be present and some tips to reduce any potential injuries.

The following is a partial list of defects you may find in stairways

HANDRAILS - A handrail is loose, incomplete, missing, splintery. Deck stairways may be open on both sides, missing handrails and guardrails may pose serious risks.

TREADS - Treads are cracked, uneven, worn, loose, or poorly supported.

RISERS - Risers are of uneven height.

LIGHTING - Lighting is poor, shadows are numerous, or the corridor leading to the stairs is dark. It’s helpful to have a light switch installed at the top and bottom of each staircase.

SURFACES - The floor is waxed, increasing the chances of slipping.

- Exterior steps are not sloped to prevent water settlement and icing.

- The stair carpeting slides because it is not firmly affixed to the stairs.

BALUSTERS - Balusters are spaced more than 4 inches apart, allowing a child to potentially slip through.

DESIGN - The stairs are not ergonomically designed.

- The stairs are too steep.

- The platform or landing surface is not slip-resistant.

- The nosing is missing, broken, worn, patched, loose, slippery, or not installed properly.

- Sharp corners are on stair elements.

- Headroom is insufficient.

SAFETY GATES - There is no safety gate at the top of the stairway in a home with small children.

Note that some design defects would be very difficult or cost-prohibitive to remedy, which would require rebuilding of the stairs.

Tips to reduce the chance of stairway falls include:

- Remove trip hazards, such as clothes, shoes, toys and/or books from stairs and other places where you walk.

- Improve the lighting around the stairs. Lampshades or frosted bulbs will reduce glare.

- Senior citizens should wear shoes that provide good support and have thin, non-slip soles.

- Do not carry heavy items up and down stairs, especially if the item blocks your view of the steps.

- Install a second handrail for additional support. A second handrail will also provide support for two individuals as they pass each other.

In summary, stairways can pose a serious safety risk, but these risks can be minimized by adequate stair construction and safe practices