The Inside Outside Guys: Stairway Safety
By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein
DETROIT, July 29, 2021 ~ Chances are good that by the time you read this today, you have already used a set of stairs.
The odds are also very good that you did not know the second leading cause of accidental injury in this country, behind only automobiles, is related to climbing or descending stairs. Stairway accidents account for more than 1 million injuries and 12,000 deaths every year in the U.S.
In residential applications, stairs evolved from ladders. Ladders took up very little precious square footage back in a time when the barn was built even before the house to protect vital livestock, and the loft was originally the “home” for people.
Stairways were viewed as a luxury due to the amount of space they occupy, and even today there are political battles waged over what we call “stairway geometry.”
Each step consists of a tread (what we step on) and a riser (how far we step up). These create two sides of a triangle and their dimensions create the “angle of ascent” that determines not only how steep the stairs are, but how much square footage the stairway will require. This “rise/run ratio” has become an issue of debate in the industry and in the building codes.
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