Stair Safety Factsheet
An important discussion on today’s Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 is expected to raise public awareness on critical issues around stair safety.
As part of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Stair Scheme’s inaugural Stair Safety Day, the BWF’s technical manager Hannah Mansell will be appearing on the show, providing advice to the public on how best to prevent trips, falls and other accidents on stairs which are known to kill at least two people every day in the UK.
The current media interest is heightened by the alarming statistics on deaths and accidents, and by tragic stories such as that of Michael Sousa, a 12-year-old boy who died last week after falling in a stairwell at a school in Norwich.
Just last month, a survey for the BWF Stair Scheme found that one third (33%) of us admit to having fallen up or down stairs in the last 12 months.
Although the elderly and young children are usually recognised as most at risk, falls on stairs are actually very common among young adults – over half of all 18-24 year olds (51%) said they had lost their footing compared to just a quarter of those aged 55 or over (25%).
Women are slightly more likely to admit to falling up or down stairs than men (38% compared to 28%). Those in the North East seem particularly at risk – the BWF poll showed that over 48% of respondents in that region had fallen in the last year, the highest percentage of all the regions – and people in Yorkshire and the Humber were safest (just 26% reported a fall).
Hannah Mansell said: “We can all chuckle about the near miss after a few too many beers, the kids’ toys left on the stairs or the distractions of our smart phones leading to a slip, but the truth is that we are all at risk of accidents on stairs and in some cases the consequences are literally lethal.”
Click here to download the factsheet.
BWF Stair Scheme
The BWF Stair Scheme is promoting six top tips for improved stair safety:
Stay Alert: Don’t get distracted while using the stairs – best to check your phone only when you have completed this part of your journey.
Tread carefully: Ensure you have sufficient foothold on each tread, use the widest side of a winder step and make sure that any footwear is appropriate.
Avoid athletics: Don’t play, run or jump on the stairs, climb or slide on the balustrades or handrail – go at a sensible speed and never try to take more than one step at a time.
Identify and remove any trip hazards: Leaving or storing toys, shoes or other objects on staircases (or landings) is a common cause of accidents and can easily be avoided.
Remember to hold tight: Use the handrail and whenever possible keep your other hand free.
Stairgates do open! Even if you do fancy yourself as Team GB hurdler, don’t be tempted to step or leap over the stairgate – this can be a common cause of accidents for older children or adults.
A stair safety fact sheet is available to download from the BWF Stair Scheme website.
25 stair safety facts:
- In the UK there is a fall on stairs every 90 seconds. (Source: BS 5395-1:2010)
- During 2015 there were 787 deaths in England and Wales caused by a fall on and from steps or stairs. (Source: Office for National Statistics)
- This is a 20.5% increase on the same figures in 2012 (653 deaths in England and Wales).
- The largest proportion of accidents among older people are falls from stairs or steps, with over 60% of deaths resulting from accidents on stairs. (Source: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)
- Stair-related injuries in people aged 75 and older are five times greater than those in young people. (Source: Thomas Pocklington Trust)
- More than 100,000 elderly people are treated for injuries after a fall on stairs every year. (Source: BBC News)
- 58,000 children have accidents on stairs every year. (Source: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)
- A survey in January 2017 for the BWF Stair Scheme found that one third (33%) of us admit to having fallen up or down stairs in the last 12 months.
- Although the elderly and young children are usually recognised as most at risk, falls on stairs are actually very common among young adults – over half of all 18-24 year olds (51%) said they had lost their footing compared to just a quarter of those aged 55 or over (25%).
- Women are slightly more likely to admit to falling up or down stairs than men – 38% compared to 28% (Source: BWF Stair Scheme survey).
- Those in the North East seem particularly at risk – the BWF Stair Scheme poll showed that over 48% of respondents in that region had fallen in the last year, the highest percentage of all the regions – and people in Yorkshire and the Humber were safest (just 26% reported a fall).
- Stairs are the location in the home where most deaths and major injuries occur, with the most serious injuries being sustained when individuals fall whilst descending the stairs (Templer, 1992). (Source: Loughborough University)
- Falls on stairs account for around a quarter of all falls in the home. (Source: Colchester Council)
- There are approximately 100,000 accidents on stairs in leisure environments each year, and several thousand more in the workplace. (Source: Health and Safety Laboratory)
- In the UK, the industries most affected by stairway falls are the service industries, followed by the manufacturing and construction industries. (Source: Health and Safety Executive)
- A third of reported fall accidents in the food and drink industry occur on stairs. This is often due to the stairs being contaminated with water or food product, or the use of inappropriate footwear. (Source: Health and Safety Executive)
- In the UK, it isn’t against the law to use the stairs without holding onto handrails. (Source: Health and Safety Executive)
- Accidents are nearly twice as likely on stairs consisting of straight steps with no winders or immediate landings and where the pitch of the stairs is more than 42º. (Source: Colchester Council)
- An accident is more likely to occur on stairs without carpet covering, and those with no handrails of guardrails. (Source: Colchester Council)
- The risk of a fall is doubled if there is no wall or guarding to one side of the stairs. Similarly, the lack of any handrail doubles the likelihood of a fall, even if there is a wall both sides of the stairs. (Source: Colchester Council)
- Increasing the depth of stair treads in new homes would prevent more than 1,250 falls and probably two deaths within the first five years of enacting a new standard. (Source: European Child Safety Alliance )
- The vast majority of stairway falls result from a loss of balance. (Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety )
- Many accidents are caused as a result of people leaving objects on stairs or carrying difficult objects up and down stairs. (Source: BBC News)
- The most common injury from falling down stairs is a broken hip. (Source: BBC News)
- Research in the United States also confirms stairs were responsible for the largest proportion of injuries to people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’s quite common for people being unable to safely navigate down a flight of stairs while under the influence. Descriptions of the incidents logged by DrugAbuse.com range from a simple slip and fall to the quite bizarre. In one example, a 21-year-old female stated she “drank mushroom tea, thought she was in hell, and jumped down stairs to get away.”
 A survey for the BWF Stair Scheme was conducted by OnePoll which questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults in the UK on 9-11 January 2017.
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