Did you know that short flight stairs and single step transitions are more dangerous than multi-step stairways?

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international organization that provides and publishes safety standards to be followed throughout the world. These standards apply to a wide range of materials, services & products. ASTM F1637 reads “Short flight stairs shall be avoided when possible…[or] obvious visual cues shall be provided.” F1637 defines short flight stairs as those stairs with three or fewer risers. The Guidelines for Stair Safety, a nationally published study prepared by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, cautions against single riser stairs, which are not reliably identified by users, particularly those descending. The Line Safety Code, a nationally published model code providing minimum safety requirements for building elements, explains how steps spanning small elevation differences go unnoticed and create conditions conducive to missteps.

The following design features are generally applicable to short flight stairs and may be relevant to your case:

  1. Landing and tread edges should be made conspicuous
  2. In two riser stairs, minimum tread depth requirements may apply
  3. A sloping handrail within 30 inches of the travel path improves conspicuity and may be required
  4. In some scenarios, a ramp should be used instead of a step
  5. Local codes may require additional or different safety features

These short flight stairs and single-step transitions have long been recognized for their potential danger. Unless they are provided with features to make them conspicuous to users, they will likely go unnoticed and lead to injuries from the fall. There are effective ways to reduce this likelihood and it is the responsibility of those installing the stairs to ensure they are implemented in the safest manner.

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, Texas. For over 70 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to obtain just compensation for their clients.  If you or someone you know has suffered due to a faulty single flight stair design please contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, call us today at 713-742-6002 or 1-800-870-9584 for your free consultation.