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Safety Tips for Stairways to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls happen everyday on workplace stairways and all employees can benefit from these great reminders on stairway safety.

Stairway in Office Building

Stairways are a very common walking surface in most workplaces. Falls from stairs may lead to serious injuries or even death. Employers must take measures in their workplaces to protect employees from slip, trip and fall hazards on any walking/working surface and employees have a responsibility to use stairways correctly, as intended.

Because employees use stairways often, maybe even on a daily basis, it doesn’t usually seem like a risky venture to “take the stairs” when it is just a normal part of the workday.

The safer we feel doing an activity the more we ignore the risks. The “everyday” aspect of the activity can lead to unsafe behavior that may result in injury when it’s least expected. The majority of stairway workplace incidents occur when an employee is not paying attention, they are rushing or they are not watching their footing.

OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.28(b)(11)(i) states that the employer must ensure each employee exposed to an unprotected side or edge of a stairway landing that is 4 feet (1.2 m) or more above a lower level is protected by a guardrail or stair rail system.

Stairways typically consist of:

  1. Landing Platform
  2. Handrail or Stair Rail System
  3. Steps (Risers)
  • Each flight of stairs having at least 3 treads and at least 4 risers must be equipped with stair rail systems and handrails.
  • Except for the entrance, stairway floor openings must be guarded by a standard railing on all exposed sides.
Industrial stairway showing landing platform, handrail system and stair risers.

Platform landings on stairways must be free of obstructions like the accumulation of debris, materials, or trash. The door or gate opening up onto a platform of stairway must open freely and not present a tripping hazard.

Because it seems like such a simple task to walk up or down the stairs, employees are often trying to do something else at the same time. It’s important to always avoid distractions while walking on the stairs, standing or walking on a stairway landing, or using a door that leads to or from a stairway.

All employees should take the following precautions when stairways are used in the workplace:

  • Always use handrails when ascending or descending any stairway.
  • Be cautious of environmental conditions such as ice, snow, or rain accumulation that may build up on the steps of stairways.
  • Stairs must be kept clean and free of trash, debris, and anything that could cause the steps to be slippery.
  • Never use stairways or landings as a storage place, even temporarily.
  • Only take one step at a time when ascending or descending the stairway.

Employers are responsible for ensuring workplace stairways are safe and employees should alert management to any unsafe issues or potential hazards noticed on or near stairways.

  • Inspect stairways for irregularities such as missing steps, loose handrails, corrosion, holes, grease, spills, or loose carpet/rugs.
  • Watch for opening doors on platforms of stairways.
  • Ensure there is adequate lighting in stairways.
Industrial Stairway

The majority of stairway workplace incidents occur when an employee is not paying attention, they are rushing and they are not watching their footing. Never carry a load with both hands while going up or down the stairs. This is dangerous for many reasons:

  • Your attention is focused on balancing the load
  • Your vision is blocked and you can’t see the stairs in front of you
  • Your hands are too full to grip a handrail.

More tips to be sure to emphasize in your next safety meeting on stairways:

  • Make sure your shoes are tied before using any stairway.
  • When walking with others, set a good example by walking up and down the stairs carefully while using the handrail.
  • Report or clean up spills or trash found on the stairs.
  • Report any situation in which there is insufficient lighting provided on any workplace stairway, indoors or outdoors.
  • Never run up or down the stairs and avoid distractions like reading a newspaper or looking at your cell phone.
Stairways on outside of outdoor storage tanks

Just because walking up and down the stairs seems basic, and we've all been doing it since we were toddlers, don't assume you can skip the safety meeting on this topic. Slips, trips and falls happen everyday on workplace stairways and all employees can benefit from these great reminders on stairway safety.

If you are ready to do more for your workplace safety and health program, adding regular safety meetings or toolbox talks is guaranteed to improve workplace safety while improving productivity and your company’s bottom line at the same time.

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Framed Safety Poster by Stairway

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