Falling Around The House
Submitted July, 2002
As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "There is no place like home!" However, estimates in the National Safety Council 1994 Accident Facts book indicate the home is a very hazardous place to be.
In 1993, there were an estimated 22,500 deaths and 6,600,000 disabling injuries associated with home accidents. "Falls" constituted the largest percentage of deaths and disabling injuries.
Improperly constructed stairways, ramps, landings and porches contribute to fall accidents around the home. There are dimensional requirements for construction and safety of stairways, ramps, landings and porches in locally adopted building codes such as CABO for One and Two Family Dwellings and Standard Building Code for other residential construction such as apartments and condominiums.
Stairs - According to the 1994 Standard Building Code, "Treads (depth) and risers (height) should be proportioned so that the sum of two risers and a tread, exclusive of projection of nosing, is not less than 24 inches nor more than 25 inches. The height of the riser shall not exceed 7 3/4 inches and treads, exclusive of nosing, shall be no less than 9 inches wide." In addition, treads and risers shall be uniform between two floors with no variations exceeding 3/16 inch between adjacent treads or risers or 3/8 inch in any one flight.
Handrails - The 1992 CABO code requires one and two family homes to have handrails for stairways having three or more risers. Handrails are to be located not less than 30 inches nor more than 38 inches above the leading edge of the tread. The 1994 Standard Building Code requires stairways at other residential facilities having four or more risers above a floor or finished ground level to have handrails not less than 30 inches nor more than 38 inches above the leading edge of the tread.
Guardrails - Guardrails are required for balconies, porches, ramps, landings and open sides of stairs which are more than 30 inches above a finished ground level or floor below. Depending on the structure classification, guardrails shall be a minimum of 36 inches high according to CABO or 42 inches high according to the Standard Building Code. Open guardrails shall also have intermediate rails to prevent a 6 inch sphere from passing through. In addition, a bottom rail or curb shall be provided to prevent the passage of a 2 inch sphere.
Ramps - Ramps have requirements for a maximum slope of 1 in 8, handrails are required for ramps with slopes between 1 in 8 and 1 in 12, and a 3 foot by 3 foot landing is required at both the top and bottom of ramps.
Anytime someone is injured by a fall related to stairs, ramps or elevated surfaces such as porches or balconies, one must evaluate the construction to determine if the builder or general contractor followed locally adopted building codes or good building practices. Failure to follow the building codes or good building practices would likely result in the construction being hazardous and unreasonably dangerous.
About the Author: Bryan R. Durig is a consulting engineer with Summit Engineering, an association of consulting engineers providing services in the areas of accident analysis, property loss claims consultation, structural analysis, fire investigations, machine damage assessment, product liability and injury to personnel.
Copyright © 2002 Bryan R. Durig.All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.