CB Designing for safety
Our tips to make your home safer.
Our tips to make your home safer.
You can significantly reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls if your home is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Here’s some things to think about.
By incorporating safety features at the design stage you won’t necessarily have to spend more. For example, small changes in level, such as single steps increase your fall risk. By designing your home without single steps you reduce your trip or fall risk and it shouldn’t cost you any more.
Some other considerations are to:
The Building Code requires that the path from the street to the front door is sufficiently slip resistant so you can safely enter and exit your home. For homes built before 1992 there were no specific slip resistance requirements.
Slip resistance is the ability of a finished floor surface to provide sufficient friction to reduce the risk of injury from slipping. If the path gets wet, then it must not be slippery when wet.
Paths and driveways need to be:
Entry steps or steps within a path should have:
You could also consider painting the front edge of the steps with white paint to make them more visible.
Front entries should provide:
Since 1992, if the balcony or deck is one metre or more off the ground you have to provide a barrier. However it is worth considering putting a barrier on balconies or decks below one metre to prevent people simply walking off the edge.
Timber-slat decks can be very slippery especially when wet, mossy or when it’s frosty. Grooved timber decking is more slip resistant in the wet than smooth timber, as long as you are walking against the grooves.
Timber-slatted decks can be installed at the same level as the floor inside to give level access but you must have a gap of at least 6-12 mm between your wall cladding and the deck to allow for drainage and prevent water pooling. Any lip at the door sill or step down onto the deck should be easily distinguished by users. Windows opening onto decks and patios should not obstruct travel paths outside.
Risk of falling from decks is higher where:
The Building Code requires barriers to be:
If you opt to install a barrier on a deck below one metre in height, the barrier must still comply with the Building Code.
For homes with small children, put stair gates at the top of stairs from the deck.
To have a safe non-slip deck:
The safety of concrete patios depends on their surface finish – very smooth finishes can be slippery when wet. The more texture a concrete surface has the better slip resistance it provides. Concrete patios are often finished with tiles or pavers which can, depending on their surface finish, also be slippery.
For new concrete use a light broom finish or applied non-slip surface rather than a steel trowelled finish.
Decks that have a waterproof coating or membrane over them can become slippery when wet.
Your deck may be finished with a painted or acrylic surface coating, timber-slat duckboards, tiles, stone or paving slabs. Depending on the finish, these can be slippery when wet.
Internal access garages often have a single step at the door. Small level-changes like this increase the tripping risk when you step up, or fall risk when you step down, as the step is often difficult to distinguish from its surroundings.
Garages should have:
Typical slip, trip and fall risks in the garden are:
Paving materials that provide good slip resistance when wet are:
Like bathrooms, pool and spa surrounds must be considered as wet areas. Pools and spas also usually incorporate steps and ladders that become slippery when wet.
To reduce the risk of slipping:
All pools, spas and ponds more than 400mm deep come under the requirements of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act. See Fencing of Swimming Pools Act for more information.
Halls and corridors encourage children to run along them. As speed of travel increases so does the risk of a slip, trip or fall.
Consider the following:
The change from indoor to outdoor creates a potential for slips, trips and falls at each entry/exit point.
In children's rooms think about:
In the kitchen you have to balance safety, aesthetics and practicality. Floor surfaces which look good and are easy to clean can be slippery, especially when wet. The more slip resistant a floor is the harder it is to clean.
Bathrooms and toilets are wet areas and this makes them high risk for slips, trips and falls. Many are poorly planned and cramped so there is little space to avoid vanities and toilet bowls on the way down if you fall.
There are no minimum slip resistance requirements in the Building Code for wet areas such as bathrooms, laundries, kitchens and decks (other than at the front entry). However, providing good slip resistance makes wet floors safer.
Level-entry showers are:
Floor surfaces within the level-entry shower and adjacent bathroom area should be slip resistant.
There are strict rules governing waterproofing level-entry showers so that water from the shower area is prevented from causing damage to other parts of the building. For more information contact your local building consent authority.
A range of grab rails that are available from a hardware store for you to install – make sure the handrail is fixed into solid framing and not just the wall lining material.
Laundries are often a dumping ground, especially just before wash day or after sports practice. They also have a tendency to become storage areas.
To increase safety, design your laundry with:
Stairs that are too steep, have changes in direction (winders) or are tightly spiralled are more difficult to use safely. Spiral or curved stairs must meet specific design requirements so that the curve is not too tight.
Well designed stairs incorporate:
Open risers must not allow a 100 mm diameter sphere (for stairs frequently used by children under 4), or a 130 mm diameter sphere (4 to 6 year-old children), to pass between the treads. This is to prevent children from falling through or becoming stuck between the treads.
Stairs are also safer where:
Barriers are required inside your home where it is possible to fall one metre or more.
They must be:
Stairs constructed since 1992 also require side barriers where it is possible to fall more than one metre.
You should also be able to clean overhead glass, such as skylights, without risking a fall or breaking the glass.
You can make it safer by:
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