A Step in the Right Direction: Balancing Stair Safety with Infection Control

- Thursday, May 21, 2020

The following was published on May 21, 2020 as a LinkedIn blog post by Melissa Kirkland, Americas EH&S Leader, Trinseo.

Stair Safety

Melissa Kirkland, Americas EH&S Leader

Melissa Kirkland, Americas EH&S Leader

At Trinseo, commitment to safety is part of our core values and an intrinsic element of our culture.

Our Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) team works to reinforce and improve safety practices through initiatives like Safety on Purpose, our behavioral safety program, and the Triple Zero Awards, given to sites that achieve zero recordable injuries, reportable spills or process safety incidents. In 2019, 77% of our sites received Triple Zero designations.

Because of our collective focus and dedication, we’ve achieved a world-class safety record in the upper echelons of the chemical industry and most importantly, prevented countless injuries.

Stair Safety

Of the many safety topics we discuss with employees, stair safety is particularly important—in the workplace and also in our homes. Stairs may seem innocuous, but that’s far from the reality. In fact, in the U.S. alone, more than one million people injure themselves using stairs annually, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

When using the stairs, consider these simple safety tips to prevent accidental injury:

  • Look where you’re going
  • Use every step
  • Use a safe pace
  • Use the handrail

Germs and Handrails

Of these stair safety tips, handrails may be one of the least-utilized and yet most effective measures. There are many reasons why individuals choose to not use handrails—they are fit and don’t see them as “needed,” they are in a hurry, or they are hesitant to use them for fear of spreading germs.

Fear of spreading germs has become particularly prevalent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And these fears aren’t unfounded—studies have shown handrails are among the top 10 germiest areas in public spaces. Furthermore, the CDC has found the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for multiple days; stairs can serve as a vehicle for transmission and recontamination of washed hands.

There are simple steps to reduce the risk of an infection while also preventing a fall on the stairs:

  1. Remind employees to use handrails and practice good hygiene Using the handrail is proven to prevent stair injuries. To encourage safe usage, post reminders in the stairwell for employees to—see it, use it, clean your hands!

  2. Don’t touch your face

    After using a handrail, avoid touching your face until you have cleaned your hands. This can be surprisingly challenging, as studies have shown people touch their faces more than 16 times in an hour.

  3. Use hand sanitizer To encourage usage, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol should be placed at the top and bottom of every stairwell. Be sure to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

  4. Disinfect handrails Handrails are high-traffic surfaces that should be cleaned frequently with approved disinfectants. A company’s EH&S team should help identify appropriate disinfectants for this job.

Stair safety and infection control go hand-in-hand, and balancing these safety risks is arguably more important than ever before. Ensuring these topics stay top-of-mind is essential for an effective safety management program.

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