Poor stairway design, deficient construction, and inadequate maintenance are common factors that lead to slips and falls on stairs and cause serious personal injuries. Other common culprits of stairway slips and falls include debris on the stairs, poor lighting within stairwells, and slippery surfaces. When individuals experience a stairway fall, they often suffer multiple injuries that can require extensive treatment to heal.
Prevalence of Falls
From 1990 to 2012, more than 25 individuals were treated in hospital emergency rooms following slips and falls on stairs. This amounts to more than 38 stairway related injuries per 10,000 residents each year. That’s one stairway-related injury every thirty seconds. It is estimated that the direct and indirect cost associated with non-fatal stairway injuries is more than $92 billion per year.
Causes of Stairway Falls
Falls on stairways can occur due to improper maintenance that causes steps or handrails to fail. They can occur because tread and risers are the improper dimensions, or because tread surfaces are slick or improperly cleared of debris. Falls can also occur because the rise of the stairway is too steep or because landings are not positioned at the proper intervals.
Lack of visibility is a common cause of stairway falls and occurs when lighting fixtures fail or because windows within the stairwell are covered. Falls can also occur when carpet or other floor coverings are improperly secured. As these detach from the surface, they can create an unexpectedly slick surface that is often difficult to notice.
Those at Greatest Risk
Everyone is at risk of suffering a slip or fall on the stairs. However, certain demographics are at greater risk. These include elderly patients over the age of 85 whose vision and mobility is limited. These individuals are more susceptible to fractures requiring hospitalization.
Other commonly injured demographics are children under the age of 3, and young adults in their 20’s. Those at greatest risk are individuals with poor balance and those who have other injuries or illnesses that slow their reflexes or impair their cognitive skills. Young children and young adults are more likely to suffer serious head injuries including contusions and concussions.
Injuries from falls can include bumps and bruises to sprains and strains. In more serious cases, individuals can suffer bone fractures or damage to internal organs. Of those who are injured, approximately 94% are treated and released, while 6% require hospitalization for their injuries.