Steps and stairs

Nearly half of all home injuries are caused by slips, trips and falls, often from steps, stairs and ladders. A serious injury from a slip, trip or fall could significantly affect your life, your family and your livelihood. You can make sure steps and stairs in your home are safe, and that you use them safely.

Step ladders

Keep your step ladder or stool in good condition.

Check your ladder once a year - the beginning of daylight saving is a good time.

When using a ladder, ask someone else to hold it steady and make sure the ladder is stable before climbing up. Never climb higher than the third step from the top of a straight ladder.

For more information, see:

ACC4407 Ladder safety: Tips for using ladders safely (PDF 507K).

Steps and stairs

Keep stairwells clear of obstacles, such as toys, sports equipment or surplus furniture.

Wear shoes with a good grip when using stairs, especially if the steps are slippery or shiny (eg polished wood).

Ensure steps and stairs are well and evenly lit. Two lights are a good idea in case one bulb blows. Bulbs should be easily accessible for replacement. There should be light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs.

If you carry anything up or down steps, make sure you can see where you're going. Several small loads are safer than one big one, and are easier on your back.

Regulations differ between councils but, as a guide, if your stairs are more than one metre high, you should have a handrail installed. Handrails should:

  • be 840-1,000mm high and continuous down the whole stairway
  • extend 300-450mm beyond the top and bottom steps so they can be held before stepping up or down
  • be a contrasting colour to the wall to make them more visible.

When installing new stairs or steps, the best height for each step is 150-180mm at a depth of 330-375mm.

For information about external steps and stairs, see Outside areas.

Reviewed: 4 March 2014