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single step trip hazard

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single step trip hazard

Here we discuss and illustrate worn, loose, damaged steps & stair fall hazards. narrow tall stair steps, slippery stair tread surfaces. curved, angled, & winder stair trip hazards. discontinuous, awkward, stairs & steps.

Curved, tapered steps & stair hazards. Lack of visual clues to indicate presence of a step or stair. Is it a step or a passage?

A loose rug at the top of the stairs is a fall hazard.

Article Contents


Lovers on the stairs at the Palenque ruins, Chiapas, Mexico (C) Daniel Friedman at

  • LIGHTING OVER STAIRS & AT EXITS - separate article

Angled, & Winder Stair Trip Hazards

single step trip hazard

Broken Stair Tread Nose

Carpeting on stairs: slip & fall hazards.

single step trip hazard

Above: a loose rug at the top of stairs is a very dangerous fall hazard.

Wyatt (1999) points out that carpeting on stairs may actually reduce the severity of injury to people who fall down stairs. Nevertheless carpeting on steps and stairs is a also potential source of slip and fall hazards that have been extensively researched (Rosen 2013).

Some carpeted stair hazards that we most-frequently observe are listed below.

Below: carpeting and walking surfaces all of the identical material lack a color change and invite fall hazards, especially among the elderly or vision-impaired users.

Carpeted walkway and stairs lack color change clue (C) Daniel Friedman

Below: Loose carpet held on steps in this Oxford U.K. hotel tends to creep and form loose folds or wrinkles at the step outer nose - a fall hazard.

Loose stair carpet held by rods (C) Daniel Friedman

  • Carpet or throw rug at the top if a stairway
  • Curled edge of the carpet
  • Lack of adequate color contrast along steps or to distinguish steps from surrounding walking surfaces
  • Loose carpeting that loses its bond to the stair slips when stepped-on
  • Slippery surface
  • Thick padding making stair edges too soft

Research on Falls Related to Unsafe Stair Carpeting

Trip hazards at the top of a stairway in a retail ship in Genoa, Italy (C) Daniel Friedman

I speculate that someone decided to repair the stairway by adding a cap-tread on each step, but on reaching the upper floor it was observed that the shorter rise created by the capped step below formed a trip hazard.

So the builder moved the trip hazard around the corner, beveled the stair top platform, and carpeted it.

Other trip hazards on this floor include loose and gapped parquet flooring (light green circle) and loose throw-rugs on a slippery wooden floor (blue arrow).

  • Dickinson, Joan I., JoAnn L. Shroyer, and Jeffrey W. Elias. "The influence of commercial-grade carpet on postural sway and balance strategy among older adults." The Gerontologist 42, no. 4 (2002): 552-559. Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this research study was to examine the effect of a selected commercial-grade carpet on the static balance of healthy, older adults who had not fallen more than twice in the last 6 months. Design and Methods: We tested a total of 45 participants. Each participant stood on a computerized balance machine and was subjected to a carpeted versus a noncarpeted condition while exposed to various sensory limitations. We measured both postural sway and balance strategy. Results:The selected commercial-grade carpet did not affect postural sway. The participants were able to adapt to the sensory limitations regardless of whether they were standing on the carpet. Although balance strategy scores were significantly lower during the carpeted conditions, the clinical significance was questionable as the difference between the means was small for practical purposes. Implications:Healthy, older adults did not have difficulty maintaining static balance on the carpeted surface; however, the results could be different if participants who had a history of falling had been included. The results from this study are important and provide a basis of comparison for those individuals who have experienced more than two falls in the last 6 months or who have a history of falling.
  • Hunt, Michael E., and Leonard E. Ross. "Stairway Carpet Design: A Simple Preconstruction Evaluation Approach." Journal of Applied Gerontology 8, no. 4 (1989): 481-491. Abstract: We describe the use of a simple and inexpensive preconstruction evaluation-like process in recommending alternative carpet patterns for stairway and ramp areas in a public building where safety of the elderly and those with visual handicaps is a primary concern. Mock-up procedures were used on existing stairway and ramp areas to determine the optimal design to provide a compelling visual indication that stairways or ramp areas were being approached, and to create the maximum differentiation of stair risers and treads with a minimum amount of attendant visual confusion. The evaluation process was quite successful in meeting its goals. We present examples of the original design, mock-up results, and final implementation of the recommendations.
  • Rosen, Tony, Karin A. Mack, and Rita K. Noonan. " Slipping and tripping: fall injuries in adults associated with rugs and carpets. " [PDF] Journal of injury and violence research 5, no. 1 (2013): 61. Corresponding Author at:
  • Karin A. Mack: PhD, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341, Tel: 770-488-4389, Email: [email protected] (Mack KA.). - Retrieved 2018/08/22, original source: Abstract Excerpt: Fall injuries associated with rugs arolesnd carpets are common and may cause potentially severe injuries. Older adults, their caregivers, and emergency and primary care physicians should be aware of the significant risk for fall injuries and of environmental modifications that may reduce that risk. Excerpt: Loose throw rugs and area carpets with curled edges or folds are among the extrinsic factors most frequently mentioned in the literature as unsafe and potentially increasing fall risk. Research has shown that hazardous rugs and carpets may be the most common environmental hazard in the homes of older adults,25 with one study finding loose throw rugs in nearly 78% of the homes,26 curled carpet edges in more than 35%,26 an average of more than 11 rugs without nonslip backing in each home. These hazards are even more common in homes of frail older adults with disabilities,27 who are at higher risk for falls. Evidence also exists that these flooring types may increase risk of serious fall-related injury.
  • Wyatt, J. P., D. Beard, and A. Busuttil. "Fatal falls down stairs." Injury 30, no. 1 (1999): 31-34.

Carrying Things on Stairs

single step trip hazard

Photo above: carrying items down damaged stone steps, the Parroquia church in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

Research has found that women, more-often than others, have only one-hand free when negotiating stairs - placing them at an increased risk of stair fall injuries.

Woman with baby ascending difficult stairs (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: tourists ascending a steep stairway, the mom is carrying the baby, having no hands free, Pyramids, Mexico City.

Below, descending curved stairs and carrying shopping bags.

Descending curved stair while carrying shopping (C) Daniel Friedman

Collapsing or Poorly-Supported Stair Treads or Stairways

Collapsing stairs in Portland Maine (C) Daniel Friedman

Door Swings Out Over Steps

Door swings out over a step is a fall hazard (C) Daniel Friedman

More about problems with a door that swings out over steps is


False Step Stairs or Step Risers

Uneven rise dodgy steps at a New Zealand resort  (C) Daniel Friedman

While most false-step stair hazards are constructed in error, in some structures stair builders deliberately created a so-called false-step. False step stairs feature in both reality and historical fiction. So what’s different about this particular stair, located at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park? And why is everyone tripping?

Tall uneven rise steps in Tucson Arizona (C) Daniel Friedman

Handrailings Missing or Defective Along Stairs

single step trip hazard

Lighting Over Stairs & at Exits

Loose stair treads, railings, other components.

single step trip hazard

Loose or Poorly-Secured Newel Post

Rotted worn basement stairs with flimsy newel post connection (C) Daniel Friedman at

Narrow Tread Depth Stairs

Too-narrow tread depth (C) Daniel Friedman

Obstructions & Debris on Stairways

Debris left in attic stairway is a trip hazard and a fire hazard (C) Daniel Friedman ati

Open Stair Guards: missing, loose, or wide-spaced balusters

Open stair guard above boiling mud in New Zealand (C) Daniel Friedmanb

Roof Access Stairs: Projections into the Stairway Can Cause Trips & Falls: Injury Report

single step trip hazard

  • The opening between the top tread and the last riser is a place someone can step into and catch a foot
  • The electrical boxes project into the walking pathway and may be stepped on or may trip someone.
  • It also looks as if there is a taller rise out of the stairs onto the roof - I can't quite make out the design - are there grabrails or something? What is the actual expected access pathway on and off of the rooftop access stair?

Example Building Code for Roof Access Stairs

  • New York City Building Code, Section 1009, Stairs: 1009.12 Stairway to Roof and Roof Access In buildings four or more stories or more than 40 feet (12192 mm) in height above grade, one stairway shall extend to the roof surface through a stairway bulkhead complying with Section 1509.2, unless the roof has a slope steeper than 20 degrees. Access to setback roof areas may be through a door or window opening to the roof. Stairs terminating at the level of a setback shall provide access to the setback roof areas, except where the setback is less than 4 feet (1219 mm) in width and 10 feet (3048 mm) in length, measured from the inside of the parapet wall. 1009.12.1 Occupancy Groups I-1, R-1 and R-2 In buildings in occupancy Groups I-1, R-1 and R-2 two stories or more in height, with roofs having a slope of 15 degrees or less, all interior stairs, except those terminating at the level of a setback roof, shall extend to the roof surface. Exceptions: | 1. In buildings in occupancy Groups R-1 and R-2 two stories in height and in occupancy Group R-2 three stories in height with not more than one dwelling unit per story, access to the roof shall be permitted to be a non-combustible roof hatch or trap door not less than 21 inches (533 mm) in width and 28 inches (711 mm) in length. Such hatches shall be located within the stair enclosure and be provided with a stationary, noncombustible access ladder or alternating tread device. 2. In buildings in occupancy group R-2 complying with Item 4 of Section 1018.2, roof access shall be governed by Item 4.6 of such section.

Shoe Types May Increase Stair Falls

Bierkenstock sandals on the pyramids may increase fall risk (C) Daniel Friedman

Slippery Stair Tread Surface

single step trip hazard

Snag Hazards Along Stairways

single step trip hazard

Tall Step Risers - too tall to climb safely

Uneven stair step riser height.

Stair step risers varying more than 3/8" (0.9525) cm step to step surface are a trip hazard (C) BP

Uneven Step Surface & Other Stair Hazards

Spanish steps unsafe (C) Daniel Friedman

The steps shown at above (Spain) were uneven in surface, had no side railing, were too narrow, a bit steep, and had that interesting little swing-out gate (with no platform) leading up to an upper balcony with not much of a railing, as our friend Nuria was contemplating.

single step trip hazard

Below: these ancient and rather uneven stairs in Yaxchilan, Chiapas, Mexico, are a challenge for visitors as they were to the people who used them even before tree roots had taken over some of the walking surface.

Uneven stairs, Yaxchilan Chiapas Mexico (C) Daniel Friedman at

Weather Hazards at Steps & Stairways: algae, ice, snow, water

Wet slipperty stone steps in the U.K. (C) Daniel Friedman

Teeny Weenie Step Trip Hazards

Teeny weenie steps  are often un-noticed and result at best in a stubbed toe, or worse, in a bad fall  (C) Daniel Friedman New Zealand

Reader Comments, Questions & Answers About The Article Above

Reader q&a - also see recommended articles & faqs.

On 2022-09-26 by InspectApedia (Editor)

@Ellen, I agree that that's a trip-fall hazard and that you could end up falling down the stairs. The best fix would be to move the door over to open onto the hallway floor not onto a step down - as any stair modification is likely to be a lot more trouble and cost. Short of that you can not FIX the hazard but you can reduce it by making darn sure that there is ALWAYS-ON good lighting at the top of that stairwell as well as, of course, over the whole stair run.

On 2022-09-26 by Ellen

We just moved into a rental with an upstairs master bedroom. The doorway faces the stairs, but there is a single step down to a small landing before the stairs begin. At night we have to navigate this and then a single step up to the right to go down the hall to use the bathroom.

I'm scared one of us is going to be too sleepy someday and mis-step. Is there any way we might mitigate the danger?

Rental stairs hazard (C) Ellen

On 2022-08-01 by InspectApedia-911 (mod)

single step trip hazard

On 2022-08-01 by Ren - unsafe spider web handrail designed by a Mexican Architect

(re-posted by mod with minor edits) I'm sharing a pic of a "spider-web handrail" design from a fellow architect in Mexico. Would you say the web servers as a handrail? In your expert opinion, would you say the web is safe for preventing a fall and not hurting the hand/fingers in a serious way while trying to hold on to it?

Spiderweb handrail design by Mexico architect

On 2022-03-27 by Inspectapedia Com Moderator

Thank you for the helpful question and the remarkable stairway photo. What an egregious opportunity to fall down the stairs. In your photo, though the lighting is unclear, I think I see several hazards: -- In-swing door opens onto -- a landing too small, less than 36" in the direction of travel away from the door and less than 36" in the direction of the stairway, in fact it's zero inches in the direction of the stairway -- a landing that directs the walker not to the first step of the stairway but rather into the stairwell opening, with the actual steps several feet away to the left in the photo I agree with you that these are very serious fall hazards. In addition we see what I think are -- a stairway opening seriously under-sized, so much so that it's possible that there is inadequate headroom for stairway users - increasing the injury risk -- a threshold across the door bottom that perhaps is itself a trip hazard, or it is a step down to the landing that should have been on the same level of the walking surface on the other side of the doorway -increasing the fall risk. -- to the right in the photo it appears there is a step down from a hallway walking surface (perhaps un used?) to an under-sized (again less than 36") landing that again directs the walker to the stair opening not to the stair step which is instead on the opposite side of the stairway opening. -- a guardrail that, from the scale of the photo, may be too short, increasing the risk of a fall injury. You say that the door can't be moved, and I suspect you'll say that as well the stair can't be moved. If I accept those dilemmas (which if I were at the site and could see more, I might question) then the only improvement that occurs to me is the construction of a right-side-hinged trap door that covers the stairwell to provide a strong and secure walking surface, so that a user has to cross over the covered stairwell opening, then raise the trap door to provide access to duck and go down these stairs. With the emphasis that we are missing most of the needed information to be confident in the following, I add that when I see such a very unsafe stair and door and guardrail and platform and hallway, those add up to raise the question of whether or not someone has built a sleeping area or occupied space on the uppermost floor of this home in a location and design that would never have been accepted by a building code compliance inspector and thus that may have been built without a permit. If that is indeed the case I would be alert for other life-safety hazards. When the situation is calm it may be that a fit person can, with care, get in and out of this upper attic-level space without event, but in the event of a power loss and the need to exit at night, or in the event of the panic of a building fire, the situation could be dire. I would find a way to move the entire door to the left of the area shown in the photo, correct the stairway opening, check the guardrail construction, and review the home for other in-expert construction features that are unsafe. Where is this building, and how old is it?

single step trip hazard

On 2022-03-27 by Diane

Any ideas how to fix this door that opens onto staircase? Door can't be moved as room on other side has steeply pitched roof lines

single step trip hazard

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  • Cohen, Joseph, Cindy A. LaRue, and H. Harvey Cohen. "Stairway Falls." Professional Safety 54, no. 1 (2009): 27.
  • Jacobs, JHesse V., A review of stairway falls and stair negotiation: Lessons learned and future needs to reduce injury , [PDF] Gait & Posture, Volume 49, 2016, pp. 159-167 Retrieved 2018/08/22, original source:
  • Nevitt, Michael C., Steven R. Cummings, and Estie S. Hudes. "Risk factors for injurious falls: a prospective study." Journal of gerontology 46, no. 5 (1991): M164-M170. Abstract: We conducted a prospective study of the consequences of falls in 325 elderly community-dwelling persons, all of whom had fallen in the previous year. We contacted subjects every week for one year to ascertain falls and to determine the circumstances and consequences of falls. Only 6% of 539 falls resulted in a major injury (fracture, dislocation, or laceration requiring suture), but over half (55%) resulted in minor soft tissue injury. One in ten falls left the faller unable to get up for at least 5 minutes, and one in four falls caused subjects to limit their activities. The risk of injury per fall was about the same regardless of the number of falls a person had during follow-up. The risk of major injury was increased (age- and sex-adjusted odds ratio: 5.9; 95% confidence interval: 2.3–14.9) in falls associated with loss of consciousness compared to nonsyncopal falls. In multivariate analyses of nonsyncopal falls, the risk of major injury per fall was higher in persons having a previous fall with fracture (6.7; 2.1–21.5), a slower Trail Making B time (1.9; 1.1–3.2), and in whites (18.4; 7.5–44.6). The risk that a nonsyncopal fall would result in minor injury (versus no injury) was increased in persons with a slower hand reaction time (1.8; 1.0–3.2), decreased grip strength (1.5; 1.0–2.3), in whites (2.0; 1.0–3.7), in falls while using stairs and steps (2.2; 1.0–5.0), and turning around or reaching (3.5; 1.7–7.3). Our findings suggest that neuromuscular and cognitive impairment, as well as the circumstances of falls, affect the risk of injury when a fall occurs
  • [2] Stair Construction Requirements for Residential Decks, 2007 California Building Code, 1009.3 and 1013.2, Mono County Community Building Department, POB 347, Mammoth Lakes CA 93546, 760-924-1800, web search 12/25/11, original source:
  • [4] Stephenson, Elliott O., THE ELIMINATION OF UNSAFE GUARDRAILS, A PROGRESS REPORT [PDF] Building Standards , March-April 1993
  • [5] "Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards , January-February 1991
  • UBC 1003.3.4.3
  • BOCA 1016.3
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
  • ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
  • ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standard
  • [8] "Fall Injury episodes among noninstitutionalized older adults: United States 2001-2003", Schiller JS, Kramarow EA, Dey AN, Division of Health Interview Statistics and Office of Analysis and Epidemiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville MD 20782, USA, Adv. Data 2007 Sep 21;(392);1-16. [Book] Abstract comments: Objective—This report presents national estimates of fall injury episodes for noninstitutionalized U.S. adults aged 65 years and over, by selected characteristics. Circumstances surrounding the fall injury and activity limitations and utilization of health care resulting from the fall injury are also presented. Methods—Combined data from the 2001–2003 National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), were analyzed to produce estimates for the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Data on nonfatal medically attended fall injuries occurring within the 3 months preceding the interview were obtained from an adult family member. Results—The annualized rate of fall injury episodes for noninstitutionalized adults aged 65 years and over in 2001–2003 was 51 episodes per 1,000 population. Rates of fall injuries increased with age, and were higher for women compared with men. Non-Hispanic white older adults had higher rates of fall injuries compared with non-Hispanic black older adults. Older adults with certain chronic conditions and activity limitations had higher rates of fall injuries compared with older adults without these conditions. The most common cause of fall injuries among older adults was slipping, tripping, or stumbling, and most fall injuries occurred inside or around the outside of the home. Nearly 60 percent of older adults who experienced a fall injury visited an emergency room for treatment or advice. Nearly one-third of older adults experiencing a fall injury needed help with activities of daily living as a result, and over one-half of these persons expected to need this help for at least 6 months. A similar percentage experienced limitation in instrumental activities of daily living as a result of fall injuries. Conclusion—Fall injuries remain very prevalent among older adults and result in high health care utilization and activity limitations. Rates of fall injuries vary by demographic and health characteristics of older noninstitutionalized adults. Keywords: National Health Interview Survey c injury episodes c injury prevention
  • [9] Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention: A Practical Handbook, Second Edition, Steven Di Pilla, CRC Press; 2 edition (July 28, 2009), ISBN-10: 1420082345 ISBN-13: 978-1420082340, Abstract: More than one million people suffer from a slip, trip, or fall each year and 17,700 died as a result of falls in 2005. They are the number one preventable cause of loss in the workplace and the leading cause of injury in public places. Completely revised, Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention: A Practical Handbook, Second Edition demonstrates how, with proper design and maintenance, many of these events can be prevented. This well-illustrated and carefully researched volume covers standards and best practices for facility design, effective management control programs, test methods and standards relating to pedestrian safety, and slip resistance methods in the U.S. and abroad. It includes checklists, handouts, case studies, rich online resources, and an extensive bibliography.
  • Falls and Related Injuries: Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences, Lawyers & Judges Publishing, (June 2002), ISBN-10: 0913875430 ISBN-13: 978-0913875438 Falls in the home and public places are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, but are overlooked in most literature. This book is unique in that it is entirely devoted to falls. Of use to primary care physicians, nurses, insurance adjusters, architects, writers of building codes, attorneys, or anyone who cares for the elderly, this book will tell you how, why, and when people will likely fall, what most likely will be injured, and how such injuries come about.
  • Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2, available from the publisher, Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company,Inc., [email protected]
  • The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as ] -
  • Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen, Jon R. Abele, Alvin S. Hyde, Cindy A. LaRue, Lawyers and Judges Publishing; ISBN-10: 1933264012 ISBN-13: 978-1933264011
  • Steps and Stairways , Cleo Baldon & Ib Melchior, Rizzoli, 1989.
  • Common Sense Stairbuilding and Handrailing, Fred T. Hodgson
  • The Art of Staircases, Pilar Chueca
  • Building Stairs, by pros for pros, Andy Engel
  • A Simplified Guide to Custom Stairbuilding, George R. Christina
  • Basic Stairbuilding, Scott Schuttner
  • The Staircase (two volumes), John Templar, Cambridge: the MIT Press, 1992
  • The Staircase: History and Theories, John Templar, MIT Press 1995
  • Steps and Stairways, Cleo Baldon & Ib Melchior, Rizzoli, 1989.
  • "The Dimensions of Stairs", J. M. Fitch et al., Scientific American , October 1974.
  • In addition to citations & references found in this article, see the research citations given at the end of the related articles found at our suggested CONTINUE READING or RECOMMENDED ARTICLES .
  • Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: [email protected] . Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The HOME REFERENCE BOOK - the Encyclopedia of Homes and to use illustrations from The ILLUSTRATED HOME . Carson Dunlop Associates provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material. In gratitude we provide links to tsome Carson Dunlop Associates products and services.

What is a Trip Hazard and 7 Steps to Avoid One

Workers assessing the job site for trip hazards.

Worker safety is paramount in today’s ultra-competitive and fast-moving working environment. However, job sites expose team members to several risks, few more prevalent than a trip hazard.

Slips, trips, and falls are often common occurrences on the worksite and a cause of injury. Employers must recognize, assess, and remove trip hazards from the workplace to lower the risk of workplace injuries and provide an environment that encourages productive work.

This article defines a trip hazard and discusses seven strategies to identify, assess, and remove one.

What is a Trip Hazard?

A trip hazard occurs when a worker’s foot strikes or lands on something dangerous. These hazards include a sunken or elevated walkway, a sudden rise, a slippery surface, and other conditions.

7 Ways to Prevent a Trip Hazard

1. remove obstacles in walkways.

Injuries often occur when workers trip over objects – such as waste, building materials, and equipment – left in designated walkways on the worksite.

The best way to prevent this risk is to support proper cleanliness in busy work and traffic areas, which might include the following steps:

  • Conduct periodic slip and trip hazard
  • Avoid stringing cords, cables, or air hoses across walkways.
  • Keep all work areas clean and orderly.

2. Maintain Floor Safety

Fall protection involves more than just cleaning up spills from the floor. It also entails paying attention to the surfaces’ standards for walking and working.

Changing the floor area can help ensure safety from trips, slips, and falls. The following suggested practices can help businesses improve the quality of their floors:

  • Invest in non-slippery, durable flooring.
  • Set up mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips, paint-on coatings with abrasives, and synthetic decking. They offer sufficient friction and lessen foot stress.
  • Regularly check floors for dangers that could cause trips and falls, such as cracks, holes, missing blocks, and uneven surfaces.

3. Wear Proper Shoes

Footwear can have a significant impact on preventing falls, and safety teams should consider the following to avoid trip hazards:

  • The type of heels worn
  • How smooth the bottoms are
  • How the shoelaces are tied

Additionally, when management reviews a fall-related injury, they must assess footwear worn at the time, decide if it played a role in the incidence, and require that workers switch to shoes that are right for the responsibilities of their job.

4. Use Signage

Signage is a valuable warning system for many worksite risks, especially trip hazards. There are two sign types safety teams can use to prevent falls:

  • Temporary signage. Safety teams should establish temporary warning signs while addressing a new trip hazard, such as removing walkway debris, cleaning up a spill, or repairing damaged floors. However, while these short-term signs help prevent injuries, management must address the hazard immediately.
  • Permanent signage: A permanent sign can help warn workers to watch out for unavoidable hazards, such as uneven ground. However, safety teams should use these only when necessary because workers might ignore a cluster of signs or ones they see daily.

5. Ensure Proper Lighting

Workers need to be able to see their surroundings to avoid slips, trips, and falls, and poor lighting on job sites makes that problematic. Safety teams can help make work sites more visible through the following strategies:

  • Repair switches and cords immediately after they stop working.
  • Use sufficient lighting in walkways, hallways, and on staircases and ramps.
  • Clear the area around light switches and ensure they are easily accessible.
  • Instruct workers to turn on the light before entering a dark room.

6. Provide Trip Hazard Training

Educating workers on finding and preventing a trip hazard will help keep them safe, and safety teams should provide them with detailed instructions on the conditions they’ll work in and the dangers they’ll encounter.

Furthermore, management should conduct regular safety meetings or presentations, which are a terrific way to update the team on newly implemented safety measures or to remind them about seasonal concerns.

7. Develop safety plans

All efforts to promote fall prevention, especially in high-risk workplaces, are solidified by a well-thought-out safety strategy, which might include the following steps:

  • Developing safety practices and standards
  • Conducting trip hazard assessments
  • Performing periodic maintenance inspections
  • Studying specifications for safety equipment

Along with these recommendations, safety officers, onsite workers, and authorized staff can hold frequent toolbox discussions about trip hazards. These safety lectures can increase team members’ awareness and highlight the risks involved with their jobs, giving them better protection against accidents caused by slips, trips, and falls.

Preventing Trip Hazards Requires the Best Safety Solutions

In the workplace, trip hazards are relatively common and, unfortunately, can cause severe injuries. Management must do its best to identify and eliminate potential risks to ensure workers perform their duties safely by considering the abovementioned strategies.

The best employees want to work on the job sites of companies that put safety first, and those employers who take these proactive steps to remove hazards demonstrate their concern for workers, contribute to developing a culture of safety that helps everyone involved, and attract better talent.

Consider partnering with us to tailor a solution that helps you create a safer workplace for your workers, customers, and visitors.

Contact us today to learn more.

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Sidewalk & Walkway Trip Hazards Expert Article

Trips and falls occur when unanticipated variations in walking surfaces interrupt the motions of a pedestrian’s foot. Studies of pedestrian falls have identified that small changes in elevation are particularly dangerous because of the low probability that pedestrians will reliably detect them.

In this article, architect and premises safety expert, Thomas Lodge discusses hazards associated with abrupt changes in walkways such as interior floors and walkway surfaces such as sidewalks and short flight stairs.

sidewalk walkway trip hazard expert

Sidewalk & Walkway Trip Hazards

Harvey Cohen and Jake Pauls, in their article “Warnings and Markings for Stairways and Pedestrian Terrain,” have identified that trips are caused by unexpected impediments in a level walking surface and unexpected change in level, and describes:

“Trips and resultant stumbles most often occur during the swing phase of the stride, when the forward motion of the foot is halted unexpectedly. This can be a brief impediment that usually causes a slight, recoverable stumble (where the foot quickly manages to come free), or a longer impediment, where the toe or heel actually becomes caught and a more serious fall results. In both cases, the fall and stumble are almost always forward in motion, and can result in injuries to the hands, elbows, shoulders, head, or knees.” 1

Perception and Visibility of Walkway Trip Hazards

Visual cues in the architecture, site planning, and design of interior and exterior spaces facilitate safe use and enjoyment of the premises by its users. Lack of clarity in visual cues, or any defect in their interpretation or comprehension of the environment, can reduce a person’s ability to understand or to safely navigate the environment; and may cause a hazard to become a dangerous condition. A hazard is a physical condition that may cause harm. A condition becomes dangerous with the likelihood or probability of the hazard being encountered in a manner to cause harm.

When a pedestrian encounters an unexpected obstacle or impediment and does not perceive it in their route of travel, trips and falls occur. An obstacle is unexpected if it is unmarked or provides no other visual cue to alert the pedestrian. The visual field of a walking person is moving and dynamically changing, with only a small part of that field being attended to. Obstacles that fall outside of this small field of view are not perceived unless they are conspicuous and unobstructed. If impediments were marked or expected, the pedestrian likely would perceive the existence of the impediment and take appropriate action to either avoid or safely traverse the condition.

Pedestrians typically scan ahead in the direction of their travel, not directly down in front of their feet. Low elements in the path of travel are not readily identified and are frequent causes of falls resulting in injury. Pedestrians are not likely to see and avoid inconspicuous walkway and sidewalk hazards at or near ground level. If the first identification of a hazard comes when there is an interruption of the gait and loss of balance, a trip and fall may result. Abrupt vertical edges as low as 3/8” have been identified as walkway hazards, and are the cause of falls.

Changes in Walkway Elevation

Walking is easiest and safest on stable, planar, flush, and non-slippery surfaces. Conditions that increase the difficulty of negotiating changes in level while walking, can lead to falls and serious injuries. Floors, patios, sidewalks, parking lots, and pathways are all walking surfaces that must be constructed and maintained without tripping hazards. Standards for safe walkways require that walk surfaces be designed, constructed, and maintained to be safe and free from hazards.

Some examples of sidewalks distresses/deficiencies requiring correction are:

  • Heaved slabs, step separation, and paver irregularities. A vertical displacement at any point on the walkway could cause pedestrians to trip.
  • Spalled areas and cracked concrete. Fragments of concrete or asphalt separated from the surrounding paving and holes and rough spots could cause pedestrians to trip.
  • Settled areas that trap water. Sidewalk segments with depressions, reverse cross slopes, or other indentations may create depressions that trap silt and water on the sidewalk and may reduce the slip resistance of the walking or create tripping hazards.
  • Tree root damage. Roots from trees growing in adjacent landscaping that cause the walkway surface to buckle and crack could cause pedestrians to trip.

Hazards of Short Flight Stairs and Single Step Transitions

Single-riser stairs should be avoided where possible. In situations where a short flight stair or single step transition exists or cannot be avoided, obvious visual cues shall be provided to facilitate improved step identification. Handrails, delineated nosing edges, tactile cues, warning signs, contrast in surface colors, and accent lighting are examples of some appropriate warning cues.

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Conspicuity of Walkway Hazards

Since pedestrians will assume that walkways do not have hazards, property owners must either eliminate hazards, guard hazards from being encountered by unsuspecting pedestrians, or apply visual cues or other such warnings that make hazards reasonably conspicuous so that their existence may be identified before they are encountered in a manner to cause harm.

Nationally recognized standards for providing safe facilities address visual performance and identify that conspicuity (or the likelihood of a person to identify a potential walkway hazard) is a function of size, contrast, and brightness. The relationship between these critical variables will determine whether a person will reliably identify or recognize an object.

Abrupt changes in walkway elevation that contrast poorly with the surrounding walkway material make it likely to blend in visually with the surrounding environment. An abrupt change in walkway elevation’s ability to be readily identified as a hazard may be improved by applying adequate warnings such as delineated nosing edges, tactile cues, warning signs, or contrast in surface colors. Such warnings may assist pedestrians to identify a dangerous condition that could cause a fall and injury; however, such cues or warnings are not a substitute nor do they negate the need for safe design or construction.

Walkway and Sidewalk Maintenance

For property owners, the standard of care for walkways and sidewalks includes maintaining safe premises and ensuring the protection of pedestrian health, safety, and welfare. The property owner is responsible for ensuring that reasonable periodic inspections are conducted to identify hazards, and correcting those hazards in a prompt manner. When dangerous conditions exist, reasonable efforts should be made to remove them or prevent them from being encountered in a manner that could cause harm.

For nearly 30 years, ASTM F1637 - Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces has been a nationally published and recognized consensus standard that provides minimum maintenance requirements for safe walkways, including exterior walkways and sidewalks. It requires:

  • Exterior walkways shall be maintained so as to provide safe walking conditions.
  • Exterior walkway conditions that may be considered substandard and in need of repair include conditions in which the pavement is broken, depressed, raised, undermined, slippery, uneven, or cracked to the extent that pieces may be readily removed.
  • Exterior walkways shall be repaired or replaced where there is an abrupt variation in elevation between surfaces.

Readily available resources from organizations such as the Building Owners and Managers’ Association (BOMA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) offer property-owners further information and guidance on inspecting and maintaining safe pedestrian walkways.

If a hazardous impediment in a level walking surface is located in a premises’ means of egress, the condition may also be subject to local building and fire codes. Building and fire codes require that floors, walkways, and applicable sidewalks and parking lots in a means of egress be reasonably and continuously maintained free from obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency.

Sidewalk Expert Witness Investigations

The Premises Safety experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained to investigate cases involving slips, trips, and falls as they relate to floors and walkway surfaces, sidewalks, short flight stairs, gratings, wheel stops, and speed bumps, and other architectural features. Our experts are well versed in the standards relevant to pedestrian safety as well as industry standards governing retail, residential, and commercial premises.

For more information, submit an inquiry or contact the author of this article.

1. Handbook of Warnings , Edited by Michael S. Wogalter, 2006, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (Mahwah, NJ), p. 712 ↩

Featured Expert

Thomas J. Lodge, Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert

Thomas J. Lodge, AIA, NCARB

Architecture, construction & premises safety expert, short flight stairs: standards and safety, by mark e. williams.

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Weill Cornell Medicine

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Environmental Health and Safety

Slips, Trips, and Falls: Understanding, Preventing, and Mitigating Risks

By Gian Joseph, Safety Advisor

As we enter the rainy and cold season, we face several risks , which include slips , trips, and fall s in our day-to-day activities. It is important t o be aware of hazards around us and learn how to properly identify and assess any risks with each step.  

Slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are common accidents that can lead to severe injuries. These incidents occur in various settings, from homes and workplaces to public spaces , and i t is essential to understand the causes, consequences, and , most importantly, strategies for prevention and mitigation.   

1. Understanding the Dynamics of STFs. STFs are caused by the following .  

Insu fficient friction between the shoe and the walking surface. Common causes include wet or greasy floors, spills, and loose debris (Slip and Fall Accidents, 2021).  

When a person's foot collides with an object or an uneven surface, it caus es them to lose balance. Typical trip hazards include cluttered walkways, electrical cords, uneven flooring, and damaged or upturned mats (Slip and Fall Accidents, 2021).  

2. The Impact of STFs  

Slips, trips, and falls have far-reaching effects, affecting individuals and society . Personal i njuries range from minor cuts , bruises, sprains , and abrasions to fractures, dislocations, and head injuries (National Safety Council, 2021). The medical expenses associated with treating STF-related injuries can be substantial , including hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and ongoing care (National Safety Council, 2021). STFs can result in missed workdays and reduced productivity for both individuals and employers. Workers' compensation claims and absenteeism contribute to economic costs (National Safety Council, 2021). Lastly, t he physical and psychological consequences of STFs can limit mobility, independence, and overall quality of life, especially among older adults ( Sahyoun et al., 2020).  

3. Prevention and Mitigation Strategies  

Preventing and mitigating STFs involves a combination of awareness, environmental modifications, and education . H ere are some ways you can take precaution s against STFs in your daily activities;  

Clear Pathways: Maintain clear, unobstructed walkways by removing clutter and tripping hazards such as cords, toys, and loose rugs (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], 2002).  

Adequate Lighting: Ensure proper lighting in all areas, both indoors and outdoors, to improve visibility and reduce the risk of tripping over obstacles (OSHA, 2002).  

Slip-Resistant Flooring: Install slip-resistant flooring materials, especially in areas prone to moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens (OSHA, 2002).  

Footwear: Encourage the use of proper footwear with good traction, especially in environments where slip hazards are prevalent ( Sahyoun et al., 2020).  

Handrails and Guardrails: Install and maintain handrails and guardrails on stairs, ramps, and elevated platforms to provide support and prevent falls (OSHA, 2002).  

Warning Signs: Use signage to alert individuals to potential hazards, such as wet floors or uneven surfaces (OSHA, 2002).  

Education and Training: Promote awareness and provide training to individuals on recognizing and avoiding STF hazards (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [NIOSH], 2015).  

Workplace Safety: Employers should implement safety protocols and conduct risk assessments in the workplace, addressing potential STF risks (NIOSH, 2015).  

Regular Maintenance: Routinely inspect and maintain buildings, walkways, and outdoor areas to identify and address potential hazards promptly (NIOSH, 2015).  

4. A Holistic Approach to STF Prevention  

Preventing and mitigating STFs require a collaborative approach involving individuals, organizations, and communities:  

Individuals : Exercise caution when walking, especially in unfamiliar or potentially hazardous environments. Wear appropriate footwear and take your time, especially in wet or slippery conditions ( Sahyoun et al., 2020).  

Employers: Create a safe work environment by identifying and mitigating STF risks. Provide training to employees on safety protocols and the proper use of equipment (OSHA, 2002).  

Property Owners and Managers: Ensure properties are well-maintained and free from hazards. Regularly inspect and address issues promptly (NIOSH, 2015).  

Government and Local Authorities: Enforce building codes and regulations that promote safety, especially in public spaces and commercial buildings (OSHA, 2002).  


Slips, trips, and falls are preventable accidents that carry substantial personal, economic, and societal costs. By comprehending the causes, consequences, and prevention strategies, we can significantly reduce the incidence of STFs and mitigate their impact. Whether at home, at work, or in public spaces, prioritizing safety and fostering awareness about STFs is crucial for the well-being of individuals and communities. Let us strive collectively to create environments where everyone can move safely and confidently, free from the fear of falling.  


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2015). Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in Wholesale and Retail Trade Establishments.  

National Safety Council. (2021). Injury Facts.  

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (2002). OSHA Publication 3151-12R. Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in Wholesale and Retail Trade Establishments.  

Sahyoun , N. R., Pratt, L. A., & Lentzner , H. (2020). The Changing Profile of Nursing Home Residents: 1985-1997. Journal of Aging and Health, 12(3), 336-363.  

Slip and Fall Accidents. (2021).  

Please note that the sources cited are accurate as of the time of writing this article. For the most current information, consult authoritative sources and local health authorities.  

Go to the staff directory for individual contacts within EHS. You may also use the Weill Cornell Medicine online directory to search for faculty and staff.

Create an EHS Incident

Weill Cornell Medicine Environmental Health and Safety 402 East 67th Street Room LA-0020 New York, NY 10065 Phone: (646) 962-7233 Fax: (646) 962-0288

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Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C.

The dangers of single unmarked steps

A single unmarked step can be a tripping hazard to the unwary, resulting in an unexpected fall. Single step risers are against good and accepted safety, building and architectural guidelines. When a pedestrian trips and falls due to an unseen single step serious injuries can result, because they are unprepared for the fall, and do not have time to prepare or protect themselves. When there is a change in walking surface which is unexpected, it can result in a the person’s foot from falling out from under them resulting in a fall. Single steps that are without visual cues can be a trap to pedestrians. The single step riser has long been recognized as a potential hazard to pedestrians because of its difficulty of recognition, partially due to its brief span of transition. The primary accident cause is usually related to a change in expectation. When there are no visual clues provided, such as a handrail, the single step is especially likely to be undetected by pedestrian users. Also, if there is a similarity of surface colors and lack of contrast between the surface levels, the ability of the pedestrians to quickly perceive the transition is diminished.

Safe practice is to consider the use of a ramp whenever one step risers are contemplated. Changes of level greater than 1/2 inch should be transitioned by means of a ramp that complies with applicable Building Codes, Regulations, Standards or Ordinances. Short flight stairs should be avoided where possible. Single steps can be particularly dangerous when they are unmarked next to doors and entrance ways, and thus blocked from view. In situations where short flight stair or a single step transition exists and cannot be avoided, obvious visual cues should be provided to facilitate improved step identification. Handrails, delineating nosing edges, tactical cues, warning signs, painting the edge “safety yellow”, contrast in surface colors and accent lighting are examples of some warning cues.

The use of visual cues such as warnings, accent lighting, handrails, contrast painting, or other cues to improve the safety of walkway transitions are recognized as effective controls in some applications. However, such cues or warnings do not necessarily negate the need for safe design construction. Safe practice requires that potential hazards be highlighted to improve perception or removed to avoid a pedestrian encounter with an unexpected event. Commonly encountered trip hazards include a single step riser. Such trip hazards should be eliminated to provide an unobstructed surface or sufficiently highlighted to attract the pedestrian’s attention.

At Zalman Schnurman & Miner we have handled many cases where people have been injured as a result of falling from an unmarked single step. If you have been injured due to the presence of a single unmarked step please call us at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463) to discuss your rights. There is never a cost for a consultation. All cases are handled on a contingency fee basis and thus you do not pay an attorney’s fee unless there is a recovery. Zalman Schnurman & Miner are New York City Personal Injury Lawyers who handle trips and fall cases due to single step risers and other dangerous conditions. We also handle all other type of injury and accident cases in New York City, and the surrounding areas.

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Why is a single step dangerous in a house?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A single step up or down in a home may be familiar to the homeowner, but is often a surprise to a visitor. When there is just one step, it often lacks the visual cues that stairs provide, such as a railing and clearly defined, significant change in level.

     We encountered an extreme example of a dangerous single step recently during a home inspection in Gainesville. The blue tape shown in the photo was added by us to make it recognizable to everyone attending the inspection. But it is an amazing example of just about everything you could do wrong to make a step dangerous:

  • No nosing to define the edge. You can see at the part of the edge where there is no blue tape that the change in level is practically invisible.  
  • The step is at the end of a hallway that opens onto a living room, but not perpendicular to the walking path.
  • No change in texture or color between the two levels.
  • It is only a short four-inch step, which is easier to miss and more likely to cause a trip-and-fall accident than a normal height step. See our blog post What is the building code for the minimum height of stair steps (risers)? to learn more.
  • A large window at the opposite wall means you walk from a hallway with low-level light into a harsh glare of sunlight when you approach the step in the afternoon. 

    Although this is an extreme example, any single step is a safety hazard. A minimum of three risers (steps) is recommended by safety experts, which provides both the visual cues and significant enough change in level to make it hard to miss. Here’s a few ways to make a single step more obvious:

  • A nosing at the edge that is lighter or darker than the surrounding floor.
  • No distractions, like a large window or cluster of furniture, ahead in the path.
  • A short handrail on a post makes the step easier for the elderly and provides a signal that your are approaching a step.

    But not having any single steps in a house is the best solution of all.

  • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about STAIRS:

• What do home inspectors check when inspecting stairs?

• Is a landing always required at the top and bottom of stairs?  

• When is a railing required at stairs?

• What is the building code for the minimum height of stair steps (risers)?  

• When is a nosing required on a stair tread?

• What is the building code requirement for receptacle outlets at stairs and stair landings?  

• Are open stair risers acceptable?

• What is the steepest residential stair allowed?

•  Do I need stairs at all exit doors from a mobile home?  

• The stairs feel too steep. What's the building code?  

•  What is the longest stair run allowed?  

•  What is the lighting requirement for stairs?

•  A light is required over a stair after how many steps/risers?  

•  When is safety glass required for windows at stairs and stair landings?

   Visit our STAIRS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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Safer Work Stairs and Steps

Our 30 minute Safer Stairs and Steps online course , CPD Approved, provides advice on the key hazards, including four types of hazardous step and provides advice on the four holistic elements of safer stairs and steps. It provides practical checks for the workplace like the crouch-and-sight test, the foot fit test, visual contrast checks and the step check. 

The Safer Work Stairs and Steps Information Sheet provides practical advice on four interdependent elements of safer stairs and steps - no one element should be considered in isolation .

Safer Steps Elements

  • Every working day one person is hurt in a slip, trip or fall on work stairs or steps
  • Descending is associated with many accidents
  • Slips are more common (than trips or falls)

Risk assessment does NOT include STF on stairs and steps

1. Operational Controls

Operational Controls  are the rules and policies around the use of stairs and steps. Operational controls are important because " people have a low risk-perception of using the stairs, which causes people to ...perform unsafe behaviours " .

See the Safer Work Stairs and Steps Information Sheet  for advice

No activities restricted on stairs or steps

  • Users should remove/replace spectacles if required

2. Environmental Controls

Environmental Controls refer to the visual cues around stairs and steps

Stair terms

  • Provide lighting of at least 100 lux at the tread
  • Consider photoluminescent step edges/ nosings and handrails for emergency stairs/ step(s)
  • Consider a different-coloured step edge/ nosing at the top and bottom steps for last step confirmation

Visual Contrast and Visual Contrast Checks

Contrasting step edges/nosings and handrails are about lightness or darkness, not colour. Colours that look different may have little visual contrast.

  • Check the  Light Reflectance Value (LRV) of adjoining surfaces with information from the manufacturer/ supplier. Ensure an LRV difference of at least 30 between adjoining surfaces for visual contrast

LRV Scale

  • A black and white image can provide a useful indication of the visual contrast

Visual Contrast Assessment image

3. Hazardous Steps

There are 4 types of hazardous steps  – Slippery, Surprise, Short and Irregular.

a) Slippery Step

A slippery step does not have enough grip , especially at the step edge/nosing.

  • Signs should only be used where hazards cannot be avoided or reduced
  • On level surfaces, people generally slip on wet surfaces or wet shoes
  • On stairs or steps, people could slip if there in inadequate support for the ball of the foot - see Short Steps

b) Surprise Step

A surprise step is not clearly visible or expected. It could be at the bottom of a flight or a single unexpected step.

Mind the Step Sign version2

  • Signs should only be used where hazards cannot be avoided or reduced 
  • Marking more than one step with warning stripes  could be visually confusing and ineffective

Warning stripes

c) Short Step

A short step does not provide adequate support for the ball of the foot for safe forward-facing descent.

Steep Stairs Warning Sign

  • On  250 mm goings , a large overstep occurs every 10 days
  • On  300 mm goings , a large overstep occurs every 73 years
  • Building Control Authorities , not the Health and Safety Authority, enforce Building Regulations  (including going lengths)

d) Irregular Step

An irregular step is longer or shorter than the other steps in a flight.

  • With one 250mm going reduced by 15mm (less than a one cent coin), a large overstep occurs every 2 days
  • With one 300mm going reduced by 15mm (less than a one cent coin), a large overstep occurs every 3 years
  • Marking more than one step with warning stripes  could be visually confusing and ineffective 

Warning stripes

4. Handrails

Power grip on handrail

Consider a handrail on the right-hand-side for descent

  • Most people are right-handed

When Considering Changes

When considering changes, it may be helpful to edit an image to illustrate proposed changes beforehand

Edit image to illustrate proposed changes

See our 30 minute  Safer Stairs and Steps  CPD Approved online course  

See Stairs, Steps Further Information

See Stairs, Steps Videos

Submission completed, thank you!

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  • Toolbox Talks

What is a Trip Hazard and how do you prevent them?

  • by Afnan Tajuddin
  • Trip Hazard & prevention

Table of Contents

Trip hazards

Trips occur when your foot strikes or collides with something, causing you to lose your balance. In most situations, individuals trip over obstacles that aren’t visible, such as uneven flooring edges, messy equipment, tools, or cables.

Accidents from trips are among the most common causes of accidents at work! Trip hazards result in thousands of injuries every year. The most common ones are musculoskeletal, cuts, and bruises but more serious conditions can also occur such as fractures or dislocations 

You can’t have a safe and healthy work environment if people aren’t able to move around it freely.

Every day, you are tasked with performing tasks that require the use of your legs. Below I’ve listed common trip hazards and how to assess them so they don’t cause injury or accident.


Common trip hazards

  • Cluttered environment and poor housekeeping
  • Scattered tools, material, electrical cables & hose in workplace
  • Lack of illumination
  • Floor surfaces that are uneven or damaged or floor coverings that are unsuitable
  • Obstructed view
  • Failure to use handrails when climbing on the stairs

Safety Controls for trip hazards:

The incidence of trips in the workplace can be dramatically reduced by implementing policies to regulate behavior. Time pressures on employees who are completing tasks might cause them to rush through work or not pay attention which could lead them into dangerous situations if they do not know what precautions need to be taken when it comes down to hazards like poor housekeeping for example.

The most common type of walking hazard is the slip or trip. This can be prevented by making sure that employees have been trained on how to avoid these dangers. With the proper education, you can avoid trip hazards and reduce your risk of injury or accident. When workers are given training on trip hazards it can help them be more aware of the risks involved, as well as prevent injuries.


Housekeeping is the first step towards preventing trip hazards. Maintaining good house- Keeping includes material & waste management to keep your workplace safe for everyone

  • Housekeeping and maintenance should be handled by dedicated workers, if necessary.
  • At the workplace, sufficient trash containers in various locations must be provided with a distinct color code system for all trash containers.
  • All workplaces must maintain the greatest possible degree of cleanliness in order to ensure a safe working environment and prevent incidents. In addition, Good housekeeping contribute to safe working conditions, while poor housekeeping is one of the most common causes of accidents.
  • Before beginning a task, before ending shifts, and after finishing a job, the workplace should be clean. This must be noted and clearly defined on the Work Permit..
  • Housekeeping should be given adequate time to ensure that the premises are well maintained.

Material & cable Management:

  • Materials must be stacked or kept in a secure way that prevents sliding, falling, or collapse.
  • Provide separate storage areas apart from working places
  • Hoses, ropes, and electric cables should be arranged & should never be allowed to remain on walkways.
  • Providing electrical outlets at worksite will help avoid risk of tripping over wires.
  • Place equipment closet and electrical outlets where possible
  • Avoid the use of extension cables if possible. Instead, use retractable reel that can be wrapped up when not in use and takes up less space.
  • When trailing cables is used temporarily, it is important that they be properly secured. hang power cords over work areas rather than on floor, Use cable ties or hangers.


Poor illumination in the workplace is associated with an increase in accidents. Use proper lighting for walkways, stairs, and ramps to reduce accidents at workplaces where there’s no light source available such as basements or work in the nighttime; keep your space well lit by turns on before entering any dimly-lit rooms so you can see what surrounds you easily without bumping into anything while walking around aimlessly!

Walking Surfaces:

Floor surfaces that are uneven or damaged can present a trip hazard. Floors must be kept clean at all times. Stairways, gangways, passageways, and doorways should all be free of obstructions. Floor coverings with an improper safety measurement could also be dangerous, Damaged surfaces/floors are reported for rectification. Safety precautions should also be taken when covering them. A trip can happen at any time so take extra care!

Stairs / Ladder:

Handrails are important when climbing or descending stairs. Make sure that the Ladder you are using often has been inspected! Damaged rungs also lead directly towards trips. stairs should be kept clean and tidy.

Trip Hazard Sign:

Trip Hazard Sign is a cautionary signal to protect from potential trip hazards. It does not substitute for maintaining personal safety, but instead helps communicate that there are things close by which can cause injury or accident if you weren’t careful enough with what you’re doing!



Employer responsibilities:.

Employers have a responsibility to control & manage trip hazards. This includes:

  • Visiting workplaces and conducting workplace-specific risk assessments .
  • To ensure that obligations are fulfilled, it is important to carry out periodic audits as needed.
  • Ensure that employees are adequately trained and instructed.
  • That suitable arrangements, are in place to maintain site tidiness to a high standard.
  • To monitor daily site conditions and ensure that any remedial actions are implemented through his organization.

Employees responsibilities:

Employees also have responsibilities in relation to controlling the risk from trip hazards including: 

  • Report anything dangerous, e.g. damaged flooring.
  • Keep care of the working environment in which they are working;
  • Remove all unnecessary tools and equipment from the work site and return them to the stores.

Regulation about trip hazards:

Workplace health, safety and welfare. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

OSHA – Walking-Working Surfaces – 1910.22

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Occupational Health and Safety Blog

Slips, Trips, And Falls Hazards | How To Prevent Them

Every year, countless individuals experience the unexpected mishap of a slip, trip, or fall. These incidents occur across all age groups and settings, from homes and public spaces to workplaces. While often brushed off as minor inconveniences or embarrassments, slips, trips, and falls can lead to serious injuries and significant financial and emotional costs.

The key to tackling this pervasive issue lies in understanding the factors contributing to these accidents and implementing effective prevention measures. In this blog, we delve into the causes of slips, trips, and falls, their impact, and, most importantly, how we can prevent them.

By understanding these risks, we empower ourselves to create safer environments, whether looking at the comfort of our homes, the safety of public spaces, or the well-being of employees in a workplace. This guide aims to heighten awareness, encourage preventive action, and highlight our shared responsibility in reducing the risks and consequences of slips, trips, and falls. Join us as we navigate through this important topic step by carefully step.

The Importance of Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls

The impact of slips, trips, and falls can be highly significant, from bruised shins to broken bones. These incidents aren’t just about physical injury. The repercussions can ripple outwards, affecting an individual’s quality of life, workability, and mental well-being. In the workplace, such accidents can lead to significant downtime, loss of productivity, and even legal implications for businesses. It’s estimated that the annual costs associated with occupational falls run into billions of dollars globally, impacting not just individuals but entire economies. Therefore, it’s clear that these everyday accidents are anything but trivial and that preventing them should be a top priority for everyone.

Basic Understanding of Slips, Trips, and Falls

To prevent these incidents, we first need to understand them. So, what exactly are slips, trips, and falls? A slip occurs when there is too little friction or traction between your footwear and the walking surface, leading to a loss of balance. A trip happens when your foot or lower leg hits an object, and your upper body continues moving, resulting in loss of balance. A fall can result from a slip or trip but can also occur due to other factors, like poor lighting, lack of handrails, or sudden illness.

Each of these incidents can occur under various circumstances. While some common causes include wet or uneven surfaces, poor footwear, and cluttered walkways, there can also be less obvious contributors, like insufficient training or awareness. This article aims to delve deeper into the world of slips, trips, and falls, elucidating their causes, impacts, and, most importantly, the strategies for prevention. The goal is not to instill fear but to inspire a culture of safety, vigilance, and proactive measures to keep everyone safe.

Slips and Trips

Definition and Differences: Slips, Trips, and Falls

While the terms ‘slips,’ ‘trips,’ and ‘falls’ are often used interchangeably, they refer to distinct occurrences. As we’ve already discussed, a slip occurs when there is insufficient traction between your foot and the walking surface. This lack of grip may cause an imbalance, leading you to fall.

Trips, on the other hand, occur when your foot contacts an object in its path or drops unexpectedly, causing you to lose balance. A trip might occur due to clutter, an obstacle in the pathway, or an uneven walking surface.

Finally, a fall is a sudden, uncontrolled descent for various reasons, including slips, trips, loss of consciousness, or other health-related issues. Falls can occur on the same level (for example, falling on the floor) or from one level to another (like falling down the stairs or from a ladder).

Common Causes of Slips, Trips, and Falls

Understanding the common causes of these incidents is the first step toward prevention. Below are some major factors that often contribute to slips, trips, and falls.

  • Wet or Oily Surfaces: One of the most common causes of slips is the presence of wet or oily surfaces. This might occur in areas prone to spills or leaks, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and certain industrial environments.
  • Uneven Surfaces, Irregularities, and Obstacles: Uneven walking surfaces or irregularities such as potholes, cracks, or abrupt transitions can cause trips. Obstacles might include clutter, cords, open drawers, and other items that haven’t been stored properly.
  • Poor Lighting Conditions: Inadequate lighting can make it difficult to see and avoid potential hazards like spills, obstacles, or changes in level. This can lead to both trips and falls.
  • Weather Hazards: Outdoor slips and falls often increase during bad weather conditions such as rain, snow, or ice, which make surfaces slippery and vision less clear.
  • Human Factors: Rushing, distraction, fatigue, or lack of proper training can also contribute to slips, trips, and falls. These can often be mitigated through awareness and training.
  • Improper Footwear: Footwear unsuitable for the work environment or the current weather conditions can increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. For example, smooth-soled shoes might not provide enough traction on a wet or oily surface, leading to slips.
  • Loose or Unsecured Mats or Rugs: Unsecured mats, rugs, or carpets can shift underfoot or present tripping hazards with their edges.
  • Improper Use of Equipment: This might involve using chairs instead of ladders, climbing on shelves, or not using safety equipment correctly, all of which can lead to falls.
  • Poor Housekeeping: If work and walkway areas are not kept clean and orderly, they can contribute significantly to slips, trips, and falls. Examples include cluttered workspaces, cables across walkways, or spills not promptly cleaned up.
  • Lack of Safety Training: Employees not properly trained on the correct job procedures, including safety equipment, can be at higher risk for accidents.
  • Inadequate Maintenance: Neglecting maintenance can lead to hazards such as leaky pipes (leading to wet surfaces), potholes, or uneven flooring, which can cause slips, trips, and falls.
  • Poorly Designed Walkways: Walkways with sudden drops, absence of handrails, sharp turns, or inadequate space can increase the risk of falls.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain conditions like poor vision, balance disorders, or mobility problems can also increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls.
  • Age: Both the very young and the elderly are at an increased risk for falls, partly due to factors such as lack of coordination, decreased strength, or reduced balance.

Remember, while this list of causes is extensive, it is not exhaustive. There may be other contributing factors depending on the specific circumstances or environment. That’s why it’s crucial to carry out regular risk assessments to promptly identify and address potential hazards.

Prevention of Slips Trips and Falls

Impact and Consequences Of Slips, Trips, And Falls

The impacts of slips, trips, and falls extend beyond the immediate event and can have lasting effects on the individuals involved and the organizations they belong to. These incidents can result in physical injuries, financial costs, and psychological distress.

Physical Injuries: From Minor to Severe

Physical injuries resulting from slips, trips, and falls can range from minor to severe. Minor injuries may include bruises, abrasions, or sprains. At the same time, more severe cases can lead to fractures, concussions, or even life-threatening injuries such as traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord damage.

In some cases, these incidents can lead to chronic pain or long-term disability, affecting the individual’s ability to perform daily activities or return to work. Falls, in particular, can be especially dangerous for older adults, leading to hip fractures or other serious injuries that significantly impact their independence and quality of life.

Financial Implications: Costs of Accidents

The financial implications of these incidents are also considerable. For individuals, this can include medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages during recovery. Additionally, they might face expenses related to modifying their home for accessibility if the fall leads to a long-term disability.

For businesses, the financial costs can be substantial. There are indirect costs besides direct costs like medical expenses and workers’ compensation claims. These can include lost productivity due to employee absence, costs related to training replacement employees, and potential increases in insurance premiums. In severe cases, businesses may also face legal fees if they are negligent in providing a safe environment.

Psychological Implications: Fear and Anxiety After a Fall

The psychological impacts of slips, trips, and falls should not be underestimated. People who have experienced such an incident may develop a fear of falling again. This fear can limit their activities, reduce their independence, and decrease their quality of life.

Anxiety, depression, and social isolation can also result from the fear of falling or the consequences of an injury, such as disability. Employees may experience stress or anxiety about returning to work, especially if they feel the environment is unsafe.

Understanding these impacts highlights the importance of preventive measures to ensure safe environments, reducing the risk of slips, trips, and falls. The following sections will explore strategies to identify potential hazards and implement effective control measures.

Slips Trips And Falls Hazards

Slips, Trips, And Falls Hazards Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is critical in preventing slips, trips, and falls. It involves identifying potential hazards, evaluating their risks, and determining appropriate control measures. A thorough risk assessment should consider all areas and activities in a given environment, from the home to the workplace.

Identifying High-Risk Areas in the Home or Workplace

High-risk areas vary depending on the setting. These might include staircases, bathrooms, and kitchens in the home, where wet surfaces are common. Outdoor areas like driveways or walkways can also present risks, especially in adverse weather conditions. Any area without sufficient support structures could be risky for older adults or those with mobility issues.

In the workplace, high-risk areas could be those with heavy foot traffic, wet or uneven surfaces, or places with lots of equipment and machinery. Industrial kitchens, construction sites , warehouses, and healthcare facilities are examples of workplace environments that often have high-risk areas.

Key Considerations for Risk Assessment

A comprehensive risk assessment should consider various factors. These include:

  • The Environment: Assess the condition of the floors, lighting, staircases, and walkways. Look for hazards like wet surfaces, uneven floors, poor lighting, or lack of handrails.
  • Human Factors: Consider the behavior and health of individuals in the environment. Are they rushing? Are they carrying heavy items that may obstruct their view? Do they have any health conditions that increase their risk?
  • Tasks: Evaluate the tasks being performed. Does the job involve working at height, handling hazardous substances, or heavy physical labor? Are workers exposed to distractions or time pressure?
  • Footwear and Clothing: Assess whether appropriate footwear and clothing are worn for specific environments and tasks.
  • Previous Incidents: Look at the history of slips, trips, and falls in the environment. A pattern might indicate a persistent problem that needs addressing.

Importance of Regular Safety Audits

Regular safety audits are essential to maintain a safe environment. These audits involve routinely inspecting the environment and practices to ensure that safety measures are up-to-date and effectively implemented. They help identify new or overlooked hazards and assess the effectiveness of current control measures.

Regular audits also demonstrate a commitment to safety, which can encourage individuals to take responsibility for their safety and that of others. This fosters a proactive safety culture where hazards are promptly reported and addressed, further reducing the risk of slips, trips, and falls.

Slips and Trips Hazards

Prevention and Control Measures For Slips, Trips, And Falls

Once potential hazards have been identified through risk assessment, it’s crucial to implement prevention and control measures to mitigate these risks. This involves a range of strategies, from good housekeeping practices to installing safety features.

Housekeeping Best Practices

Proper housekeeping is one of the most effective ways to prevent slips, trips, and falls. Here are some best practices:

  • Regular Cleaning: Clean floors regularly and immediately clean up any spills. Ensure to put up “wet floor” signs until the area is dry.
  • Declutter: Keep walkways and work areas clear of clutter and obstacles.
  • Proper Storage: Store materials and equipment properly when not in use.
  • Maintenance: Promptly repair any damages to walkways and work areas, like cracks or uneven surfaces.

Installing Safety Features (Handrails, Non-Slip Mats, etc.)

Installing safety features can greatly reduce the risk of accidents. Here are a few examples:

  • Handrails: Install sturdy handrails on all staircases and other areas where individuals may need extra support.
  • Non-slip Mats: Use non-slip mats in areas prone to wet or slippery conditions.
  • Guard Rails: Install guardrails around elevated platforms, mezzanines, and other fall hazards.
  • Visible Markings: Use reflective tape or other visible markings to highlight changes in floor level or other hazards.

Appropriate Footwear for Different Surfaces

Wearing the right footwear can significantly reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Choose shoes with good traction, especially for wet or slippery surfaces. Protective footwear should be worn in workplaces where specific hazards are present, such as construction sites.

Prompt Removal or Correction of Identified Hazards

Address identified hazards as quickly as possible to prevent accidents. If a hazard cannot be immediately removed or corrected, ensure it is clearly marked, and individuals are informed about it until it can be addressed.

Adequate Lighting

Ensure all areas have sufficient lighting to allow individuals to see and avoid potential hazards. This is particularly important for stairways, hallways, and outdoor paths. Replace burnt-out bulbs promptly and consider installing automatic lights in often-used areas.

By implementing these prevention and control measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls, promoting a safer environment for everyone. In the next section, we’ll explore additional strategies and considerations specific to the workplace.

Slip Trip And Fall Hazards Control Measures

Workplace-Specific Considerations

While many of the principles of slips, trips, and falls prevention apply universally, certain considerations are particularly relevant to workplaces. These involve safety training, employer responsibilities, and industry-specific hazards.

Importance of Safety Training and Awareness Programs

Safety training is vital to workplace safety . Regular training sessions can ensure that employees are aware of potential hazards and the best practices for avoiding them. Training should cover topics such as proper use of equipment, safe handling of materials, and emergency procedures.

Awareness programs, too, can play a crucial role in maintaining a safe work environment. These programs could include regular safety reminders via bulletins, emails, or meetings, encouraging employees to be vigilant and proactive about safety.

Employer Responsibilities and Employee Rights

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment. This involves conducting regular risk assessments, addressing identified hazards promptly, and providing necessary safety training and equipment. They should also have procedures in place for reporting accidents or hazards and ensure that employees feel comfortable using these procedures without fear of retaliation.

Employees, on the other hand, have the right to a safe workplace and the right to speak up about safety concerns. They also have a role in maintaining safety by following established procedures, using provided safety equipment, and promptly reporting any hazards or incidents.

Industry-Specific Hazards and Control Measures

Every industry has its unique set of hazards, so it’s important to consider these when planning prevention and control measures. For example, spills and hot surfaces might be major hazards in a restaurant kitchen. Measures could include non-slip mats, appropriate footwear, and caution signs. In a construction site, falls from a height might be the primary concern, necessitating guardrails, safety harnesses, and fall arrest systems.

In conclusion, slips, trips, and falls are common but preventable incidents. By understanding their causes and impacts, conducting regular risk assessments, and implementing effective prevention and control measures, we can significantly reduce these accidents, fostering safer homes, workplaces, and communities.

Slips Trips And Falls

The Role of Training in Preventing Slips, Trips , and Falls

Proper training programs are essential to educate employees on recognising hazards and taking preventive measures. Key training includes:

  • Slips, Trips , and Falls Training:  This program focuses on identifying potential slip, trip, and fall hazards, understanding the causes and learning preventive measures. Through  online slips, trips, and falls training , employees can learn how to recognize and mitigate these risks effectively and promptly report such incidents.
  • Hazard Awareness Training:  General hazard awareness training helps employees recognize various workplace hazards, including those that could lead to slips, trips and falls. It promotes a culture of safety and vigilance.
  • Housekeeping and Workplace Organi z ation:  Training on maintaining a clean and organized workplace can prevent many trip hazards. This includes proper material storage, cable management and clear walkways.
  • Emergency Response Training:  Knowing how to respond in the event of a slip, trip or fall is crucial. This training covers first aid, emergency procedures and reporting protocols to ensure quick and effective response to incidents.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Training:  Employees must know how to select, use and maintain their PPE. PPE training includes instructions on wearing non-slip footwear, gloves and other protective gear to minimize the risk of slips, trips and falls.
  • Work at Height Training:  Work at height course  educates employees on the risks of working at heights and teaches safe practices for performing such tasks. This specialized training helps prevent severe injuries resulting from fall incidents.

Preventing slips, trips, and falls is no small task, but it is a crucial one. As we’ve explored in this guide, these incidents are far from trivial, carrying the potential for serious physical injuries, significant financial costs, and profound psychological impacts. Yet, armed with the knowledge of what causes these incidents and understanding their impacts, we’re already halfway towards prevention.

The steps to creating safer environments—at home, in public spaces, or at workplaces—aren’t overly complex. They begin with recognizing the potential hazards and involve a thoughtful blend of risk assessment, implementing practical measures, and fostering a culture of safety awareness. From basic housekeeping to installing safety features, each action reduces the risk.

It’s important to remember that the responsibility of preventing slips, trips, and falls doesn’t rest on a single individual or group—it’s a collective effort. Employers, employees, homeowners, and public facility managers all have roles to play. And in our various roles, we all contribute to a larger, shared goal: creating safer environments for everyone.

Preparing for and preventing these incidents can seem daunting in a world where the unexpected is expected. But, as we’ve seen, it’s not only possible; it’s a critical part of our commitment to safety for ourselves and others. Let this guide serve as a reminder and resource for that commitment, helping us make each step we take a safer one. Thank you for joining us on this journey towards safer environments and greater awareness. Let’s continue to take steps, big and small, toward a safer tomorrow.

Dohrmann Consulting

Home · Blog · Ergonomics : Preventing slips, trips and falls on stairs

Preventing slips, trips and falls on stairs, 10 march, 2021.

single step trip hazard

Key points:

•  Falls on stairs are common, and often lead to serious injuries.

•  Falls on stairs are often complex – there are multiple possible factors that can cause a fall.

•  Many stair incidents can easily be prevented, and remedial solutions implemented at minimal cost.

•  Ultimately, however, steps and stairs should be designed and built properly, consistent with regulations and common practice, having regard for their purpose and use.

The ubiquitous steps and stairs found in all places of the community present a common fall risk. Each year in Australia, thousands of people are injured in their workplace, home or in a public space due to a fall involving stairs. While most of these injuries are preventable, it remains a fact that such incidents can and do often result in serious injuries or even death.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to a fall on stairs, including design, construction and use. This article will outline some of those factors to look out for when considering the safety of a set of stairs, and suggest practical ways that you can minimise risk of injury.

This advice is necessarily of a general nature only; we recommend that you obtain expert advice if the risk of a fall incident is high. If you are a manager or business owner, it is your legal responsibility to make sure stairs in your workplace are as safe as is reasonably practicable for you to make them.

What commonly causes falls on stairs?

Most falls on stairs occur due to one of the following:

  • Slips occur when a person loses traction with the stair surface. The most common causes of slips, therefore, are insufficiently slip-resistant tread surfaces (e.g., surfaces that are highly polished, wet, worn carpet, smooth paint or greasy).
  • Tripping occurs when a person unexpectedly catches their foot on part of the stairs. Typically, the objects that a stair user will trip on are small and unobtrusive such as a small lip, or a damaged “nosing” (the step edge). A trip can also occur due to inconsistent step sizing – we rely on uniformity in stairs, and can literally be “tripped up” when it is not provided.
  • Mis-stepping occurs when a person oversteps a step or otherwise does not land one of their feet on the next level in the position expected. Our gait (the study of how we walk) is a fragile thing, and it is surprisingly easy to disturb it. Such mis-stepping incidents can often also occur due to dimensional inconsistencies, lack of contrast at the step edges, visual or lighting issues. They can also be caused by damaged steps or poorly maintained steps.

How to minimise slip, trips and falls on stairs

To minimise the risk of a slip or trip and fall on stairs, below are some key things to consider about stair safety, whether it is in a home, workplace or community space.

  • Step geometry, the dimension of riser and goings (see diagram below) should be within acceptable limits – the National Construction Code provides a useful table of advice in this regard. “Riser and going” (step rise and run) dimensions should be constant through the flight.
  • Is the stairway/stairwell well lit? Long established Australian Standards for lighting provide guidance for a whole host of usage situations.
  • Is there good contrast along each the step edge? Is it easy to see that there is a step, and where it’s edge is?
  • Is the surface material on the stairs slippery in either wet or dry conditions? Is it exposed to an area likely to get wet or greasy? Is it worn or contaminated with some other material, like powders? Are there surface irregularities? Does it give good traction? Australian Standards for surface slip resistance prescribe minimum requirements for surface coefficients.
  • Is the nosing (the front edge of the step, see Figure 1 below) worn, raised and lifted (if there is a strip added) or showing signs of wear? Are there areas where a stair user’s toe or heel could catch?
  • Are there handrails? Do they extend the full length of the stairs?
  • Avoid single steps where possible – they can hide in plain sight.

single step trip hazard

Figure 1 – typical stair properties.

There are other behavioural factors that contribute to falls on stairs, like user fatigue, drug and alcohol use, distraction, carrying heavy or large loads, or sun in the eyes.

As independent safety and ergonomics experts, Dohrmann Consulting have investigated a diverse range of incidents involving stairs, and have also worked extensively with stair designers in ensuring designs meet the appropriate building codes and standards.

We leverage our experience gained from regularly providing expert opinion in stair incidents.  

Free ‘Falls on Stairs’ Checklist

We have developed a ‘Falls on Stairs’ checklist that is intended to provide an investigator with guidance as to what to look for and what to ask an injured person when a fall on stairs has occurred. To obtain a copy of this checklist, please click here .

Download Falls on Stairs checklist

You may also be interested in the following information and resources:

  • National Construction Code (NCC) Compliance: Expert Safety Advice and Performance Solutions
  • Preliminary expert liability advice for legal practitioners
  • How to minimise the most common workplace injuries in Australia

Discuss your requirements with an expert – obligation free.

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  • Commercial Codes
  • Commercial Building Codes

Minimum step height

  • Thread starter e hilton
  • Start date Sep 27, 2021

e hilton


  • Sep 27, 2021

Trying to solve an accessibilty issue on a sidewalk, slope is a little too much tor ADA. So we’re looking at creating a landing on the sidewalk with a ramp on one side. Problem is, if the landing is flush with the door threshold and has minimum slope (just enough to drain off rain) the resulting step at 5 ft out is a bit over 2”. Maybe 2-1/2”. IBC 2015. Architect is saying that is not high enough. Where do i find that in the code? I see the max & min step height for stairs … does that apply here?  


e hilton said: I see the max & min step height for stairs … does that apply here? Click to expand...


Forum Coordinator

No minimum. See above post.  

Paul Sweet

I'd be nervous that a single step less than 4" would be a tripping hazard. A change of materials or contrasting nosing would alert people to the step and lessen the trip hazard.  

jar546 said: No minimum. See above post. Click to expand...

It is part of the exit discharge, especially that close to the building's exterior door. Section 1003.1 (2018 IBC) states that Sections 1003 through 1015 shall apply to all three elements of the means of egress system. Section 1011 is within that group of sections. Therefore, stairs within the exit discharge element must comply with the stair requirements.  

Mr. Inspector

Mr. Inspector

If this step is used to go in and out of the building with occupied it must comply with code even if it is outside. If not serving an occupied portion of a building, like a stand alone rest room there is no code for the steps.  

The code minimum is not good design, just acceptable legally. I believe research has shown stumbles and falls per use increase below 4 1/2 to 5, just as they begin to increase around 6 1/2. Mainstream the ramp, so everyone uses it. Fewer injuries over the life of the building entrance. If you do the minimum rise, mark the heck out of it, provide a good graspable handrail, and illuminate it if used at night.  


Install a handrail to help identify the ramp and landing. As stated might be better to do this and make everyone use it to avoid the step issue.  


What is the occupancy? And if we are going to bring in all of Ch 10: 1003.5 Elevation change. Where changes in elevation of less than 12 inches (305 mm) exist in the means of egress, sloped surfaces shall be used. Where the slope is greater than one unit vertical in 20 units horizontal (5-percent slope), ramps complying with Section 1012 shall be used. Where the difference in elevation is 6 inches (152 mm) or less, the ramp shall be equipped with either handrails or floor finish materials that contrast with adjacent floor finish materials. Exceptions: 1. A single step with a maximum riser height of 7 inches (178 mm) is permitted for buildings with occupancies in Groups F, H, R-2, R-3, S and U at exterior doors not required to be accessible by Chapter 11. 2. A stair with a single riser or with two risers and a tread is permitted at locations not required to be accessible by Chapter 11 where the risers and treads comply with Section 1011.5, the minimum depth of the tread is 13 inches (330 mm) and not less than one handrail complying with Section 1014 is provided within 30 inches (762 mm) of the centerline of the normal path of egress travel on the stair. 3. A step is permitted in aisles serving seating that has a difference in elevation less than 12 inches (305 mm) at locations not required to be accessible by Chapter 11, provided that the risers and treads comply with Section 1029.13 and the aisle is provided with a handrail complying with Section 1029.15.  

Trying to link a dropbox picture … RAMP.pdf?dl=0 Problem is … its a city sidewalk so space is limited. We plan to add a ramp on one side and a handrail on the other side. Trying to avoid a handrail in front of the door.  

Won't the ramp require railings with extensions and a curb?  

bill1952 said: Won't the ramp require railings with extensions and a curb? Click to expand...

The image you provided changes the whole picture I had in my head. Where does the right-of-way the face of the building? If so, shouldn't it be the responsibility of the jurisdiction to provide accessible means into buildings from the public right-of-way?  

Correct, everything outside the face of the building is city property.  

Inspector Gift

Inspector Gift

I believe RGLA's question is the key to the solution. The design and enforcement rests fully upon the city. IMHO, the proposed solution shown provided in post #11 is NOT an improvement. There are several reasons; not least is the step which must be at least 4 inches high, and the ramp does not have flared sides, or edge protection (curb or barrier). (Please look at ICC A117.1-2017 , Sections 405 and 406 .)  

  • Sep 28, 2021
Inspector Gift said: I believe RGLA's question is the key to the solution. The design and enforcement rests fully upon the city. IMHO, the proposed solution shown provided in post #11 is NOT an improvement. There are several reasons; not least is the step which must be at least 4 inches high, and the ramp does not have flared sides, or edge protection (curb or barrier). (Please look at ICC A117.1-2017 , Sections 405 and 406 .) Click to expand...

I suggest a ramp up to landing and back down opposite side, parallel to store front, width of landing depth, and a railing along whole thing on street side of ramp and landing. It eliminates multiple trip hazards and creates very minimal sidewalk restrictions and obstructions, and treats everyone equally.  

Bill … problem with a ramp on the left is that it is “behind” the door and essentially not useable. Here is a clip from what the architect has roughed out, a couple of important notes: we are creating a bit of a pinch point between the lower left corner of the landing and an existing tree pit, it’s less than 4 ft. And the actual step height will be 3” on the left and 4” on the right. Wonder if we can apply for a variance. Sep 28, 09 18 06.jpg?dl=0  

single step trip hazard

I see people tripping constantly on the brick curb and landing that projects from it, and railing is too far from step to be a useful warning. Gift has best solution, just warp the sidewalk so no railings, steps, ramps, or curbs at all.  

Inspector, …that parallel curb ramp works, except the landing height is an inch short., and the city will not make any changes. The best we can hope for is for them to approve and we change at our expense. And actually, …we have a side battle going with the landlord: the lease states its his responsibility, but he is resisting.  

bill1952 said: just warp the sidewalk so no railings, steps, ramps, or curbs at all. Click to expand...

Is a straight line from threshold to curb steeper than 2%? Didn't look like it in photo, but can't tell. Yes, it's the whole sidewalk ! The continuous ramp up-landing-ramp down that Gift suggested and similar to what I said seems best of difficult problem, but with a railing. I'm not sure why Gift's landing is 4' from wall rather than 5' - I may be missing something - but at 5' the behind the door issue is minimal., and next, A117.1 I think increases that from 60" to 64 or 66", I'd have to check. Just try not to build in trip hazards like that 6" curb in middle of side walk or 2" landing. Those are certain to cause injuries. There will be orange cones and hasty signs taped to the wall in the first week.

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  • Building Regulations

single step trip hazard?

By jfb March 20, 2019 in Building Regulations

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Regular Member

Thinking of a single small step up from entrance hall into main living area in barn conversion.

There will be a door as well, ideally opening into the main space , so at the top of the rise.

Can the rise be 100mm, 75mm, 50mm? Or is there a minimum rise allowed by building regs?

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I am pretty sure you cant have a door at the top of a step. Anything less than a normal step height (minimum 150) is going to just be a trip hazard. why not google search the building regs

Advanced Member

A small rise is annoying/trip hazard. Perhaps just add more floor insulation on the lower area?

 I think there must be a "landing" at least 400mm deep between door and rise. That's what we have upstairs.

17 minutes ago, Temp said: A small rise is annoying/trip hazard. Perhaps just add more floor insulation on the lower area?    I think there must be a "landing" at least 400mm deep between door and rise. That's what we have upstairs.

door swing width + 400.

Just seen that is at bottom of stair. Not sure about at top of stair



If you are wondering whether something is a trip hazard : it is.  Design it out.


ok ok! i submit.

i'll leave it all level


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    More than 3/8 of an inch in variation of the height of steps from one step to another is a tripping hazard recognized in virtually all model stair codes. See STAIR RISER SPECIFICATIONS for details about proper step riser height and riser uniformity requirements. Uneven Step Surface & Other Stair Hazards. The steps shown at above (Spain) were ...

  4. What is a Trip Hazard and 7 Steps to Avoid One

    Use sufficient lighting in walkways, hallways, and on staircases and ramps. Clear the area around light switches and ensure they are easily accessible. Instruct workers to turn on the light before entering a dark room. 6. Provide Trip Hazard Training. Educating workers on finding and preventing a trip hazard will help keep them safe, and safety ...

  5. Sidewalk Trip Hazards

    Sidewalk & Walkway Trip Hazards. Expert Article. Trips and falls occur when unanticipated variations in walking surfaces interrupt the motions of a pedestrian's foot. Studies of pedestrian falls have identified that small changes in elevation are particularly dangerous because of the low probability that pedestrians will reliably detect them.

  6. PDF Slips, trips and falls, safe design and use of stairs

    1. Mark the step rises starting from the bottom step on a sheet of A4 paper. 2. Compare the markings to see if there is a difference in step dimensions. If a difference is noticed, measure the rises and goings with a ruler. 2. Check all the steps for differences 1. Mark the rise and going of the step using a piece of paper

  7. PDF Prevent Tip sheet Slips, Trips and Falls

    How to Prevent Falls. ls both at home and in your community: Remove clutter, including electrical cords and other tripping ha. s, from walkways, stairs and doorways Install nightlights in the bathroom, hallways and other are. o prevent tripping and falls at night Always wear proper. twear and clean up spills immediately Place non-slip adhesive ...

  8. Slips, Trips, and Falls: Understanding, Preventing, and Mitigating

    By Gian Joseph, Safety Advisor. As we enter the rainy and cold season, we face several risks, which include slips, trips, and fall s in our day-to-day activities. It is important t o be aware of hazards around us and learn how to properly identify and assess any risks with each step.. Slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are common accidents that can lead to severe injuries.


    More than one control measure may be needed to provide the best protection. A checklist to assist with the identification of slip and trip hazards and the selection of appropriate control measures is on page 7 of this fact sheet. Identifying slip and trip hazards Common slip hazards include: • spills of liquid or solid material

  10. Reducing the risk of falls on stairs

    are free from trip hazards or obstacles. If patients or residents lack mobility and require extra support, then the stairs should have suitable handrails on both sides. ... the leading edge of the step should be marked to improve contrast between the step and edge. These features make the stairs safer for all users, including staff. Wherever ...

  11. Reducing Slips, Trips and Falls in Stairways

    Commonly found inside public buildings such as hotels and restaurants, "air step" falls occur because people fail to perceive the modest change in floor level and are usually the most serious accidents on low stairways. Tripping also is a hazard, especially when people don't notice the stairway as they approach from the lower level.

  12. The dangers of single unmarked steps

    A single unmarked step can be a tripping hazard to the unwary, resulting in an unexpected fall. Single step risers are against good and accepted safety, building and architectural guidelines. When a pedestrian trips and falls due to an unseen single step serious injuries can result, because they are unprepared for the fall, and do not have time ...

  13. 10 Key Stair Safety Tips to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

    Stairs can be a potential hazard if not navigated with care. Here are 10 key stair safety tips to prevent slips, trips, and falls: 1. Proper Lighting. Proper illumination is paramount for stair safety. When a well-lit staircase, each step is visible, reducing the risk of missteps or trips.

  14. Causes and prevention

    Slip and trip accidents happen for a number of reasons. The following model will help you understand the factors that can contribute to slip accidents and the action to take to prevent them . It is called the slip potential model. One or more of these factors may play a part in any slip accident. Slip potential model. Slip potential model

  15. Why is a single step dangerous in a house?

    Sunday, August 5, 2018. A single step up or down in a home may be familiar to the homeowner, but is often a surprise to a visitor. When there is just one step, it often lacks the visual cues that stairs provide, such as a railing and clearly defined, significant change in level. We encountered an extreme example of a dangerous single step ...

  16. Stairs and Steps

    Safer Work Stairs and Steps. Our 30 minute Safer Stairs and Steps online course, CPD Approved, provides advice on the key hazards, including four types of hazardous step and provides advice on the four holistic elements of safer stairs and steps.It provides practical checks for the workplace like the crouch-and-sight test, the foot fit test, visual contrast checks and the step check.

  17. Identifying Same-Level Slip and Fall Hazards in the Workplace

    Nov 01, 2014. Job hazard analyses (JHAs) are used to identify a variety of safety hazards. They're a proactive means of preventing many different types of workplace injuries and illnesses. One ...

  18. What is a Trip Hazard and how do you prevent them?

    Trip hazards. Trips occur when your foot strikes or collides with something, causing you to lose your balance. In most situations, individuals trip over obstacles that aren't visible, such as uneven flooring edges, messy equipment, tools, or cables. Accidents from trips are among the most common causes of accidents at work!

  19. Slips, Trips, And Falls Hazards

    Appropriate Footwear for Different Surfaces. Wearing the right footwear can significantly reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Choose shoes with good traction, especially for wet or slippery surfaces. Protective footwear should be worn in workplaces where specific hazards are present, such as construction sites.

  20. Preventing slips, trips and falls on stairs

    A trip can also occur due to inconsistent step sizing - we rely on uniformity in stairs, and can literally be "tripped up" when it is not provided. Mis-stepping occurs when a person oversteps a step or otherwise does not land one of their feet on the next level in the position expected. Our gait (the study of how we walk) is a fragile ...

  21. Minimum step height

    I'd be nervous that a single step less than 4" would be a tripping hazard. A change of materials or contrasting nosing would alert people to the step and lessen the trip hazard. Reactions: Inspector Gift. ... A single step with a maximum riser height of 7 inches (178 mm) is permitted for buildings with occupancies in Groups F, H, R-2, R-3, S ...

  22. PDF Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls

    person can trip and fall. One strategy for reducing trip hazards caused by raised portions of sidewalks or other walkways is to grind down the raised edge. Raised concrete, pavers, and bricks create a trip hazard. Tree roots can raise sidewalks and walkways when a tree is planted too close. BeFoRe: Raised sidewalks create a trip hazard.

  23. single step trip hazard?

    Thinking of a single small step up from entrance hall into main living area in barn conversion. There will be a door as well, ideally opening into the main space , so at the top of the rise. Can the rise be 100mm, 75mm, 50mm? Or is there a minimum rise allowed by building regs?