A person’s age or preoccupation is not always the reason for a fall

Most often, orthopaedists attribute tripping on stairs to old age-related issues or speaking on the mobile phone while climbing the stairs.

A senior orthopaedist formerly attached to a government hospital said, “Falls from stairs are due to failing eye sight. As age advances, people are at more risk of falling,” he said.

Another senior orthopaedist, who practises in a private hospital in Tambaram, said he received patients aged between 20 years and 45 years, and often the reasons for tripping over stairs were carelessness due to speaking over mobile phone and missing a step or two when trying to take two stairs at a time.

But a person’s age or preoccupation is not always the reason for a fall. An orthopaedist, treating a journalist who was hospitalised after slipping on some stairs, said the fall probably had more to do with the design of the staircase than his health. Architects agree that tripping down stairs is possible if the structure is not constructed with care. A person taking the stairs is psychologically prepared and physically tuned to continue in a rhythm.

The height of each step has to be the same along the entire length of the staircase and so should be the width. When there is a sudden change in either of these, the rhythm changes and a person loses balance leading to a fall. It is important to maintain slope of the staircase and pay attention to its details, says Chennai-based architect Mahesh Radhakrishnan.

The National Building Code has detailed specifications for staircase design and these norms must be strictly adhered to. The stairs should not be cluttered and must be user-friendly, he said.

Designers insist that differentiations of various levels must be clearly indicated, non-slippery and matte-finish materials must be used and clear signage adopted for good staircases. Any violation of safety norms must be severely dealt with, architects said.

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