Whether you’re designing stairs for a domestic or commercial application, it’s essential to make sure that the final design is as safe as possible to prevent trips, falls and injury.
Read on to learn more about some of the most important aspects in staircase safety.
The riser is the board that forms the front face of each step and the rise is the vertical distance between each step. The taller the risers on your staircase, the steeper the steps will be.
Steep stairs can be difficult for even the most able-bodied person to climb or descend and pose a greater risk of losing balance, which could lead to a fall. In the UK, the maximum individual rise for domestic stairs should be no greater than 220mm, while public stairs should be no greater than 190mm.
The tread is the horizontal surface of the step. Its depth is the distance from the front of the tread to back. If treads are too shallow, there may not be enough space to place your foot straight on the step.
This may lead to people ascending and descending the stairs at an angle, so more of their foot contacts the tread. Users may also place their weight on just the ball or heel of the foot to prevent overhanging. Neither of these solutions is very safe and increases the possibility of a fall.
While there are no regulations for the minimum width of a staircase (except for fire escapes and disabled access), the width of the tread should be sufficient to allow a person to walk up or down the stairs in a fully forwards orientation.
If a person has to turn side-on to fit through the space, they are more likely to lose their balance. Where possible, staircases should accommodate two-way traffic, allowing people to comfortably pass on the stairs.
While aesthetics can be very important, stair treads should also be designed with maximum grip in mind. Consider the texture of your chosen material and whether it will enable good grip to prevent lost footing and slips.
Timber, textured tile and carpet are good options, and non-slip tape can be added to treads to provide better grip. For outdoor stairs, avoid surfaces that will become slippery when wet, such as glass, smooth metals or polished stone.
Make sure that your stairs are fabricated with only high-quality materials that meet all safety standards. Flat-pack or ready-made staircases are sometimes made from cheap timber or MDF, which may not be able to withstand high traffic.
High-quality materials such as British-made steel and solid timber are wise choices when designing a staircase. Hiring a professional company to construct and install your staircase is incredibly important to ensure its structural integrity.
Fixing handrails on one or both sides of the stairs improves user safety as they ascend or descend. This allows users to keep their balance and gives them something to hold on to should they lose their footing.
Handrails should be smooth and easy to grip. The top of the handrail should be between 900mm and 1000mm above the floor. Stairs should have a handrail on at least one side if they are less than 1000mm wide, and must have one on either side if they are wider than this.
Spindles and Balusters
These vertical posts or pillars fill in the gap between the handrail and the stairs, together making the entire balustrade. They ensure that there is no large gap for someone to fall through, and add to the balustrade’s structural integrity.
Legislation states that a 100mm sphere must not be able to pass through any openings in the balustrade. This is to ensure that a child’s head would not be able to fit through. Spindles and balusters can be as a design feature, incorporating carved wood columns or wrought ironwork for a spectacular finish.
All staircases must be well lit to ensure that users are able to properly see where they are going. Remember to take into account all times of day that the stairs may be in use.
There are many options for lighting your staircase, including overhead lights, wall sconces, or even lights on the stair treads. Lighting can be another interesting design element, helping you to make your staircase a spectacular feature in your property.
Canal Architectural: Experts in staircase safety
With over 25 years’ experience, Canal Architectural are experts in designing, manufacturing and installing bespoke staircases that meet all safety requirements.
Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you to design the perfect staircase for your home or business.