Staircases pose a serious safety risk to workers throughout the country.
OSHA estimates that there are roughly 24,882 injuries and as many as 36 fatalities per year due to falls from staircases and ladders. Nearly half of these injuries are serious enough to require time off the job — 11,570 lost workday injuries are reported annually.1
The high number of workplace injuries surrounding staircases should capture the attention of facility and safety managers in every food processing plant. Something as simple as workers walking up and down stairs can cost companies thousands in employee injury payouts.
Staircase Safety Risks
There are a number of conditions that can cause workers to be injured on staircases — some of which are found all to often in food and beverage processing facilities. These conditions include:
- Wet or slippery surfaces
- Wet or slippery handrails
- Inadequate lighting
- Lack of anti-slip coating
- Dangerous projections, such as protuding nails
- Crumbling or deteroriating materials
- Variations in riser height or stair tread depth
- Doors open directly onto a staircase
Start with an Evaluation
Using the list of injury-causing conditions above, the first step in improving staircase safety is to evaluate the staircases in your facility.
Grab a notepad and visit each staircase in your facility and ask yourself these questions:
- How safe are they?
- Do you notice any of the conditions listed above?
- Have any specific staircases resulted in worker injuries or near misses?
- Do your workers find any specific staircase too steep? Or wet? Or not deep enough?
- Are there any structural issues with the staircases, such as deteroriation or dangerous projections?
Getting a sense of the level of safety risk present on eash staircase in your facility will help prioritize what actions need to be taken to improve staircase safety.
Preventing Staircase Injuries
Once you’ve evaluated the staircases in your facility, follow these tips to improve safety:
- Make sure all staircases parts are free of dangerous projections
- Provide a platform where a door or gate opens directly onto a staircase
- Apply non-slip coating to stair treads, noses, and handrails
- Ensure staircases are installed at least 30 degrees, and no more than 50 degrees, from the horizontal
- Follow all OSHA regulations for stairs and ladders
- Install handrails that provide an adequate handhold for employees to grasp to prevent falls
- Make sure variations in riser height or stair tread depth do not exceed 1/4 inch
- Provide employee training on effective use of the staircase, especially when carrying product
When properly implemented, these tips will effectively minimize employee injuries on and around your plant staircases.
Take the Next Step
Being aware of the dangers surrounding staircases, and making a plan to fix any issues, is the first step in improving staircase safety and protecting you from costly employee injuries. While staircases may seem to be the least of your safety team’s worries, it only takes one instance of one of the above safety risks to cause can injury.
1 “Stairways and Ladders.” U.S. Department of Labor, 1 May 1996. Web. 19 June 2014 .