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Prevent slips, trips and falls at home and work

Causes can range from irregular and slippery surfaces, poor visibility, distractions, bad design, inadequate housekeeping, and the latest peril to be added to the list – texting while walking.

The problem is especially pronounced among older people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of individuals age 65 and older fall each year. To complicate matters, falling once doubles a person’s chances of falling again. One fall in five among older adults results in a serious injury, and older people are less able to recover from the trauma physically and emotionally.

While some falls – whether the person is old or young – are unavoidable, many can be prevented. A good place to start is to apply a commercial-level, non-slip stair tread product at either your home or commercial establishment. Look for these qualities when doing so:

1. Durability: The best stair tread products are long-lasting. A solution that has to be reapplied every few months can easily become a safety issue and a huge drain on labor resources. Ideally you should look for a solution that is extremely durable and lasts for years – even where exposed to chemical, weather and temperature extremes.

2. Cost-effectiveness: There is a wide range of prices for stair tread solutions – from bolt-in or industrial-level stair tread noses that require some level of renovation to steps, ramps or entry ways to rubber coverings that warp over time and with lots of use – but even some of the best stair tread products are cost effective.

3. Convenience: The stair tread product or solution should be easy to install by in-house personnel and should not excessively inconvenience employees or tenants during installation. Many installations take days or weeks and can potentially disrupt stairwells and loading docks, pedestrian traffic, employees at work and more. Look for a non-slip stair tread product that is easy to install or apply and takes only hours (not days) to harden or cure.

4. Visible and unique: To reduce the chance of slips and falls, people need a visible and unique cue at the top and bottom step – or at the start and end of a ramp. This is important for personnel safety, especially for busy or distracted employees, people carrying packages (because they can block sight lines), and especially critical for people with poor vision. Ideally, you want something that delivers a detectable warning such as a high-visibility strip or glow-in-the-dark tread-making compound. 

5. Slip resistance: Many of the best stair tread products are slip-resistant. Make sure to purchase a non-slip stair tread – one with a consistency that makes it clean and easy to apply, even on sloped and irregular surfaces, including: spiral stairs, concrete loading ramps, and commercial scaffolding and ladders.

6. Tactile advantage: All the best stair tread products have a non-slip advantage. Some products are more visible than others in low-light situations, providing an additional safety measure for those with vision issues where it can be hard to identify the start of a step, ramp or drop off. The best stair treads have an additional value – a “feeling cue” – which enhances safety with texture or slight variation in height (making it stand out slightly to the touch). Stair tread products that allow for custom textures or shapes and heights can further reduce the chance of someone missing a sudden change in elevation. Simply painting a yellow line on a step is not a viable safety solution. The solution you choose should have some “grittiness,” deliver some slight variation in height and stand out visibly.

As a final note, business owners should choose a broker who takes time to learn about all aspects of their risk and heed this advice: “Severe weather and flooding can strike anywhere, whether or not you are in a high-risk area,” said Daniel Kaniewski, deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Insurance is the first and best line of defense.”

Greg Gerber is an account manager at KMRD Partners Inc., a risk and human capital management consulting and insurance brokerage firm with three offices in southeastern Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected]

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