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Compliant Stairs Save

Written by Adam Buzasi, Director


The importance of compliant stairs is often undervalued. As Disability Access Consultants, it’s not uncommon to receive requests to waive certain stair features from a design. However, this can have serious implication on the overall safety of individuals (even those without a disability) when negotiating stairs.

In Queensland alone more than 13,000 workers suffer a stair related injury each year, costing over $60 million in compensation (Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, 2016). Often these falls are attributed to inexpensive features such as slip ratings, contrasting non-slip nosing strips, handrails etc.

Thus, the irony is that the removal of these features can end up costing a lot more than the cost of installing them.

Let’s explore a few real-world cases:

  • $1.75 million was awarded in 2017 to a physiotherapist who fell backwards when ascending a stair, resulting in being unable to continue working. The incident was attributed to:

    • Inconsistent riser heights; and

    • Lack of non-slip contrasting nosing strips (Covey v State of Queensland [2017] QSC 23, 2017).

  • $140,000 was awarded to an individual who fell down two stairs at a wedding venue with the claimant requiring back surgery. The stair lacked:

    • Handrails on both sides; and

    • Non-slip contrasting nosing strips.


It was found that the owner of the venue had been negligent in their duty of care to avoid a foreseeable risk of injury to occupants (Furfaro, 2018).

  • Compensation was awarded to an individual that was visiting family in an apartment complex when they inadvertently fall down a staircase due to being unable to identify the presence of a stairway, resulting in a fractured ankle. The stair did not contain accessible features such as handrails. (Bechara, 2016). The stair not being readily identifiable also implies a lack of Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI’s).

While stair features are important, it is recognised there may be times when when a stair might have modified features while still being deemed compliant. However, any variation needs to be carefully considered and discussed with an expert, such as a Disability Access Consultant to understand the risks. This would almost always require assessment through a Performance Solution.

If you would like to discuss the design of a stair please do not hesitate to contact us, one of our friendly staff will be glad to assist.


Bechara, N. (2016, November 11). Compensation for apartment’s visitor as a result of falling down a darkened staircase. Retrieved from Gerard Malouf:

Covey v State of Queensland [2017] QSC 23, S49 of 2014 (Supreme Court of Queensland at Townsville February 27, 2017).

Furfaro, R. (2018, August 30). Sydney Woman Awarded $140,000.00 after Falling at Wedding Reception. Retrieved from Gerald Malouf and Partners:

Standards Australia. (2010). AS1428.1-2009 Design for Access and Mobility. Australia: Standards Australia.

Standards Australia. (2010). AS1428.1-2009 Design for Access and Mobility (Incorporating Amendment No. 1). Standards Australia.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. (2016). Slips, trips and falls prevention. Office of Industrial Relations.

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