The Dangers of Single Unmarked Steps

A single unmarked step can be a tripping hazard to the unwary, resulting in an unexpected fall. Single step risers are against good and accepted safety, building and architectural guidelines. When a pedestrian trips and falls due to an unseen single step serious injuries can result, because they are unprepared for the fall, and do not have time to prepare or protect themselves. When there is a change in walking surface which is unexpected, it can result in a the person's foot from falling out from under them resulting in a fall. Single steps that are without visual cues can be a trap to pedestrians. The single step riser has long been recognized as a potential hazard to pedestrians because of its difficulty of recognition, partially due to its brief span of transition. The primary accident cause is usually related to a change in expectation. When there are no visual clues provided, such as a handrail, the single step is especially likely to be undetected by pedestrian users. Also, if there is a similarity of surface colors and lack of contrast between the surface levels, the ability of the pedestrians to quickly perceive the transition is diminished.

Safe practice is to consider the use of a ramp whenever one step risers are contemplated. Changes of level greater than 1/2 inch should be transitioned by means of a ramp that complies with applicable Building Codes, Regulations, Standards or Ordinances. Short flight stairs should be avoided where possible. Single steps can be particularly dangerous when they are unmarked next to doors and entrance ways, and thus blocked from view. In situations where short flight stair or a single step transition exists and cannot be avoided, obvious visual cues should be provided to facilitate improved step identification. Handrails, delineating nosing edges, tactical cues, warning signs, painting the edge "safety yellow", contrast in surface colors and accent lighting are examples of some warning cues.

The use of visual cues such as warnings, accent lighting, handrails, contrast painting, or other cues to improve the safety of walkway transitions are recognized as effective controls in some applications. However, such cues or warnings do not necessarily negate the need for safe design construction. Safe practice requires that potential hazards be highlighted to improve perception or removed to avoid a pedestrian encounter with an unexpected event. Commonly encountered trip hazards include a single step riser. Such trip hazards should be eliminated to provide an unobstructed surface or sufficiently highlighted to attract the pedestrian’s attention.


At Zalman Schnurman & Miner we have handled many cases where people have been injured as a result of falling from an unmarked single step. If you have been injured due to the presence of a single unmarked step please call us at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463) to discuss your rights. There is never a cost for a consultation. All cases are handled on a contingency fee basis and thus you do not pay an attorney's fee unless there is a recovery. Zalman Schnurman & Miner are New York City Personal Injury Lawyers who handle trips and fall cases due to single step risers and other dangerous conditions. We also handle all other type of injury and accident cases in New York City, and the surrounding areas.

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