Stairway Safety Methods

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Stairs are inherently dangerous and cause tens of thousands of injuries and accidents every year in North America alone. The majority of stairway injuries are caused from failure to use hand railings or from loss of balance. Settling and shifting concrete can greatly increase the probability of injuries. Cracks or instability in concrete stairs is a critical issue that needs to be addressed immediately, because it can lead to severe injury and liability damages.

As a result of the high level of risk associated with stairs, building codes for stairs are generally very strict and detailed in order to prevent the improper design of stairways and to decrease the potential for injuries. According the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the best approach in minimizing stair hazards is to ensure the building of well-designed stairways, accompanied by proper training of company employees in preventative measures against unsafe behavior and inattentiveness while promoting safe and reactive responses to accidents. Stairs require vigilant maintenance and upkeep, one of which is the care of your concrete.

Concrete cracks for various reasons, including mistakes in the pouring and hardening process. If there is too much water or too little strength grade in the concrete mix, it is more likely to crack over time. Concrete is more likely to crack if the concrete hardens too quickly or if the chemical reaction to transform the liquid concrete into a solid lacks adequate water. Hydration is key for concrete to properly harden, so when there is not enough necessary water present, the concrete dries incorrectly and becomes more susceptible to cracking. Other causes for concrete cracking can include lack of control joints, improper weather conditions when the ground is frozen, or the soil’s lack of foundation support beneath the concrete.

Some safety features when considering your concrete stairs include:

  • Increased visibility through contrasting patterns or light fixtures built within the vertical side of the stair, especially in night conditions
  • Properly installed hand rails at the proper height of 31-38 inches and girth of 1.5 inches to 2 inches
  • Prevent slippery surfaces with slip-resistant paint, textured surfaces, and matte finishes, without glare
  • Proper housekeeping/cleaning to decrease the chance slipping due to the accumulation of spills, debris, leaks, etc.
  • Correct dimensions for step length (riser height between 5-8 inches, step width with a minimum of 35.4 inches, and tread depth between 9-24 inches)
    • These conditions must be professionally determined for your individual stairway. These ranges are the recommended dimensions provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety for fall prevention on stairs.
  • Thorough inspections & Meeting building code requirements
  • Fixes to unstable, uneven, or cracked concrete using concrete leveling methods such as polyurethane injection, which is a process of inserting a polymer solution slurry into a small, drilled hole in the concrete stair which then reacts to create a hardened, foam substance that safely lifts and stabilizes the concrete surface.
    • Master Concrete Services offers professional methods to solve your concrete needs. We recommend polyurethane injection for its cost benefits, lightweight nature, and quick cure method (generally around 15 minutes), which improves the safety of your concrete stairs almost instantly.

Concrete shifting and cracking are inevitable. It is particularly crucial for the concrete in your stairway to be properly designed, poured, and maintained to prevent costly medical bills, legal fines, or property damage.