Safe Use of Steps & Stairs

As a part of your normal routine, or cleaning on or around stairs.

Risk: Slips or Trips causing injuries

Control Measure:

Most of us use stairways every day going up and down various levels, either at work, or at home. We have done it for years and the problem is, we no longer think about the real danger. Falls on stairs is one of the most common incidents that occur both at work and at home.

In the past, we had an incident on one of our sites (that I am sure most of you can relate to), where by our staff member had finished work and was rushing down the steps taking all the rubbish to the bin outside. Right about this time, we are all thinking about what we are having for dinner, or do I need to get milk etc. Unfortunately, this person did not have adequate points of contact and was not concentrating, which lead to this person missing a step, causing them to trip. As their hands where full of rubbish bags, they could not reach the handrails and so fell headfirst directly onto the handrails themselves. Although they received a huge bruise to their cheek, they were later released from hospital, with no head injuries (Thank god!). In this case, they were lucky not to have more serious injuries and learnt a valuable lesson.

Another common mistake is simply forgetting there is a step down from a building.  This single step (if missed) can really cause severe injuries. And remember not all single steps have a hand rail.

Good workplace practices protect people from a variety of possible injuries including injuries caused by tripping. Tripping on steps/stairways, is a common workplace incident that can occur if using them or cleaning around them.

Following are a number of controls to reduce the chance of an incident.

  • Make sure the area is well lit;
  • Handrails are installed and are used when walking up and down steps and stairs;
  • Three points of contact is best practice on stairways when using them to walk up or down – one foot at a time on steps and both hands on handrails at all times. I.E. either one hand on the left rail and one hand or the right rail, or both hands on the one rail.
  • If working on stairways or carrying equipment this may vary.
  • when working on stairwells then you must follow the relevant controls laid out in the site safety manual or JSA;
  • When carrying equipment then two points may only be possible, e.g. one foot at a time and one hand on the hand rail…
  • Be vigilant, look where you are going e.g. don’t text on your phone, until you have reached the top or bottom of the stairs then you can stop and concentrate on your phone safely, don’t read documents when using steps or stairs;
  • Get help if you need to carry something, or spread the load over a few times going up and down the stairs rather than trying to take the whole thing in one load;
  • Be mindful as well as vigilant. We can have accidents even when we are looking where we are going if our mind is somewhere else e.g. a similar situation that can occur when you are driving and suddenly realise you can’t remember the last few turns in the road. Make a conscious effort to think about where you are going as well as looking;
  • Check for hazards when you are using stairs:
  • Are the non-slip edges intact and not loose or worn?
  • Are there spills on the treads e.g. water, oil?
  • Has rubbish been left on the steps or stairs?
  • If outdoors, is it wet? Are there leaves or twigs on the steps that could make them slippery?
  • Are your shoes appropriate for walking around and negotiating steps and stairs? For example, high heels and thongs are more likely to be caught, and cause a trip and fall.
  • If you identify a hazard or experience a near miss involving a hazard, please report it to your manager and complete an incident report.
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