Stair rails

Stair supports and rails may be a very simple way to get your mobility back. Contac the team at COS for more information. 

Stair safety

Image of a person walking down a flight of stairsFalls in general are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people and significantly impact on long-term outcomes, e.g. being a major precipitant of people moving from their own home to long-term nursing or residential care.

Falls on the stairs can be caused by a combination of environmental and personal factors - for example the state of the stair covering or clutter left on the stairs, a person’s sight or their medication affecting balance.

You can help your own or another person’s safety by making sure that:

  • you move carefully and slowly on the stairs
  • you do not get distracted when using the stairs
  • you avoid using the stairs if you feel unwell, dizzy or faint
  • you wear well-fitting shoes
  • if you have to carry something, you keep one hand free to hold the handrail, you keep the stairway well lit with a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairs, you remove any loose rugs at the top or bottom of the stairs
  • you have secure handrails at an appropriate height on both sides, ideally that contrast with the surroundings
  • you keep the stairs clear of clutter or obstacles
  • you keep stair covering in good condition.

It has been shown that an accident is more likely to occur on stairs without a carpet covering, and those with no handrails or guardrails. It has also been demonstrated that a very decorative stair covering can make seeing each step more difficult, especially for those with poor eye sight.

It is recommended that you have a stair covering with good slip resistance properties and that you consider highlighting the edges of each step for those with poor sight.

If you use a walking aid, consider having one upstairs and one downstairs, to avoid carrying the aid up and downstairs. If you need the walking stick to help you get up and down the stairs, ask for a physiotherapist to show you how to do this properly and safely.

For further advice please read our advice on reducing the risk of falling on the stairs or read advice on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) Home Safety.

Stair rails

Grab rails for isolated steps
If you have places in the home where you have one or two steps, try installing a grab rail either side of these steps to give you something to hold onto as you go up and down. Fit the rail at the approximate height of your wrist when standing on the first tread, with your arm relaxed by your side. You are advised to install grab rails long enough to extend just past the top and bottom ends of the steps to provide a steady anchor/pulling point.

Long handrails
Staircases usually have a handrail on one side, although this may not extend to the full length of the staircase. It is recommended that you extend the handrail past the top and bottom of the stairs to provide a steady anchor/pulling point. Most DIY stores sell handrails which can be used to extend the existing handrail all the way up the staircase if it is required. Adding a handrail to the other side of the staircase will provide more support where needed. Long lengths of rail are available and may also be installed along corridors.

A wide range of finished hand rails are available from DIY chains for you to choose from. A plain 50mm mop head cross section softwood rail may be used.

Image of a staircase and banister with measurements

It is recommended that it is run continuously from the bottom to the top of your flight of stairs, including going around the edge of any intervening landings and across window openings. The handrail should continue past the top and bottom steps by at least 300mm.

The height will depend on your needs. If on both sides, the rails should be at the same height. This is usually between 900-1000mm above the pitch line of the stairs .

Image of a newell railThe handrail should have a fixing at least every 1000mm and no more than 150mm from each end. It may require mounting on a pattress or backboard which is then secured to the wall.

Newel rails
Newel rails are designed to turn through 90 degrees around the newel post (the upright post of the stair banister).

They provide a continuous grip as the user reaches the bottom or top of the stairs and turns the corner and are available in a range of sizes.

Please note that left turning and right turning Newel rails are available - which one you require depends on which way your staircase turns after the newel post.

Stair rails which move with you
Image of a a man using a moving stair railWith this design a rail is fixed securely to the wall, with a bar which folds down in front of you and moves up and down the rail when pushed as you use the stairs. As soon as a sudden weight is applied to the bar, it locks to steady the user.

The bar can be folded away when not in use.

This design gives stability and a sense of security to the user. You still need to be able to walk up and down the stairs and have a reasonable grip.

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