Don't be fooled by their commonplace appearance; stairs are a serious danger that cause over a thousand deaths every year. Obviously, the danger that stairs pose is that of falling. However, the damage can vary widely based on any of a number of factors, from what direction you're heading, to how high up you were at the time of the fall..
Falls are one of the top reasons why people have to go to the hospital, and stairs are the top place where people fall. With a few precautions, though, you can mitigate your chances of falling or sustaining serious injury if you do fall.
Who's Most At Risk?
Unsurprisingly, the people most at risk from a serious fall on the stairs are the elderly and young children. However, secondary groups like pregnant women, the immuno-suppressed, those with poor vision or balance, and hemophiliacs need to take special caution around stairs as well.
Simple Risk Reducing Steps
There are many small risk reducing steps you can take in your own home and sometimes on other stairs that can reduce your risk of a fall.
Install guard rails - guard rails not only allow for you to have something to catch should you start to fall, but also give you a guide to follow if visibility is low.
Light stairs well - by lighting stairs well, you reduce the likelihood that someone will trip because they could not see properly. Keep nightlights on near steps for nighttime use.
Never keep anything on the stairs - teach children to keep toys off of steps and make sure you don't put any of your own clutter on steps to ensure a clear pathway.
Avoid carrying dangerously large or heavy things up or down stairs if you can. It's too easy to trip, fall, and not be able to recover if you are focusing on an unwieldy box or piece of furniture. If you must carry difficult objects up and down stairs, have a partner help you, even if it seems a little silly.
Stair Construction and Maintenance
Don't assume that stairs are safe just because they are accessible or because you haven't had a fall yet. Before using stairs, check to see if they are worn down or smooth in any way: this can make them slippery and difficult to get sure footing on, and stairs that are slightly worn are less obvious but still just as dangerous as heavily worn stairs. A difference in stair depth requires much more concentration and should not be taken lightly. Do the stairs meet building codes? Building codes are a minimum level of safety standards, so hopefully the stairs you encounter will exceed these codes. Avoid wet or icy stairs if at all possible, and keep a hand on the hand rail if it's not possible to avoid such dangerous stairs all together.