The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is campaigning for the most up to date British Safety Standard for stairs (BS 5395-1) to be mandated for all new build homes. It is hoped that the initiative - which is backed by private and social builders, as well as housing industry organisations, a cross party coalition of MPs and members of the House of Lords - will save countless lives if it becomes law.
British Standard 5395-1 considers the dimensions of stairs, their slip resistance and the provision of handrails, and has been a recommended building regulation since 2010. Based on 15 years of research by the Building Research Establishment, it looks at the key safety factors that should be taken into account during the structural design of stairs, including the step dimensions.
The momentum behind this campaign reflects the seriousness of the issue. Every year, 700 people die from falling on the stairs, and for every one hospital admission caused by a burn, there are 235 caused by a fall. RoSPA highlights that stairs built to the British Standard reduce falls by an incredible 60%, meaning the majority of these falls could be avoided.
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this month, Paul Maynard MP (Blackpool North and Cleveleys), said: “For every one hospital admission due to a burn, there are 235 caused by falls. The impact of these falls is felt disproportionately by older people, and even when a fall is not fatal, it is often the first stage of a persistent decline.”
Lucie Prothero, a senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper, who specialises in elderly falls cases, comments: “We regularly deal with claims and enquiries relating to falls among older people. Sometimes when individuals have fallen while at home, suffering injuries which require hospital admission, they then go on to have further falls in hospital. We also see cases where older people have suffered falls while receiving community-based care, both in their own homes and in care or nursing homes.
“In many instances, the consequences of these falls are devastating – resulting in disabling fractures, brain injury and even death. It is widely known that the UK population is ageing, and falls can have a far-reaching impact on older people. The human cost of falling includes distress, pain, injury, loss of confidence, loss of independence and mortality. This has been highlighted in the NICE guidelines on the assessment and prevention of falls in older people.
“In addition to the tremendous human cost, falls represent a significant impact on NHS and social care services, with some older people suffering a marked decline in their mobility and independence, meaning that they never recover to the baseline level of health they previously enjoyed.
“Often, simple yet effective measures can be taken to minimise the risk of falls occurring and to help older people stay safe when mobilising. We wholeheartedly support the RoSPA’s safer stairs campaign, having seen first-hand the impact that falls can have.”