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Tripping Hazards Created By Stairway Wear Strips

Many commercial establishments that have carpeted stairways have plastic or metal "wear strips" or "nosings" on the leading edge of the stairs. The primary purpose or function of these strips is to reduce the amount of wear on the carpet. Simply put, these strips are placed on the carpeted stairs to increase the life of the carpet, thereby saving the business owner money in replacing the carpet.

If these strips are not installed properly and carefully inspected and maintained, they can create one of the most dangerous tripping hazards individuals can encounter in a commercial setting. 

In 1972, the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission published a study entitled "Guidelines for Stair Safety." One section of that study was entitled "Tight and Uniform Stair Coverings" which states the following: Whenever tread coverings or nosing strips separate from the tread itself, a tripping hazard is introduced. Tile, linoleum, rubber mats, carpeting, or metal strips can produce a "lip" where they begin to peel or roll back from the tread. That lip can easily catch a user's heel or toe. Given the very small tolerances with which stair users clear the treads and nosings, even the most minor lip or edge created by loose coverings or strips can cause a major accident. This is particularly a problem at the beginning of a flight, because the user is primarily concerned with edge detection and can easily miss critical surface irregularities on the tread or nosing. It is also critical in the middle of a flight where the success of the user's initial performance on the stair generates a false sense of con-fidence leading to (1) even smaller tolerances for clearing nosings and (2) complete inattention to the stair treads themselves. In short, minor surface irregularities which can lead the user to trip and have a serious accident are among the most difficult characteristics of a stair to notice or anticipate. They should be eliminated wherever possible.

The types of establishments that often have these wear strips on their carpeted stairways include hotels, banquet facilities, apartment houses, office buildings and hospitals. If these strips come loose or bend upward, they can very easily catch an individual's toe or heel as the individual attempts to walk down the stairs. It is therefore absolutely necessary that owners and managers of facilities that have these items on their stairways, regularly and carefully inspect these strips for potentially dangerous conditions. If these strips are properly installed and properly maintained, they will not cause a tripping hazard. If they are not properly installed or not properly maintained, they will create a tripping hazard.

Some of these wear strips are glued to the walking surface. Over time, the glue can become dry and the strips can rise. I have encountered situations in cases in which originally glued wear strips have been reattached with nails or screws. When this situation arises, a careful and prudent business owner would take one of two courses to correct the problem. The first course of action would be to remove and replace all of the wear strips once one of them becomes loose, since if one becomes loose, it is foreseeable that the rest of them will become loose shortly. The other course of action is to reattach or re-secure the strips by nailing them down or screwing them down. If this is done, logic would dictate that all of the wear strips be re-secured with nails or screws, not just the individual strip that has already become loose.

Business owners and managers who choose to prolong the life of the carpeting on their stairways by utilizing wear strips must properly and carefully inspect and maintain the strips in order to avoid a very dangerous condition for their business' guests.

If you've been injured from falling or tripping on stairs due to tripping hazard or dangerous conditions, contact the White and Williams team, experienced premises liability and personal injury lawyers, for a free consultation.  1-877-944-8396.

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