A Guide to Managing Risk on Stairs

No one should be moved up or down stairs if they are violent or if you reasonably foresee that they might become violent during the process.

Moving a person up or down a flight of stairs can be a challenging and potentially risky procedure. Whether you are a care provider, security personnel, or just a concerned bystander, it’s crucial to prioritise the safety for everyone involved.

This article provides guidelines on how to assess and manage the risks associated with moving individuals in two specific circumstances: when they are intoxicated or ill and require assistance, and when they are non-compliant.

Prioritising Safety

Before delving into the specific circumstances, it’s essential to emphasise the importance of prioritising safety above all else.

As a rule, individuals should not be moved up or down stairs if they are violent or if there is a reasonable expectation that they might become violent during the manoeuvre.

The safety of both the individual and those assisting them must always be the top priority.

Always consider if there are alternative procedures or routes that can be used to avoid the use of stairs.  In other words, is there an alternative way to achieve the same outcome (ie; getting the person to the same end safe place).

In cases where someone is asked to leave a premises and refuses, it is vital to inform them clearly that their invitation to remain has been revoked, and they are trespassing.

If they do not voluntarily leave, let them know they will be escorted off the premises.

Any resistance may result in police intervention, treating it as aggravated trespass.

When Stair Assistance is Necessary

Assisting an Intoxicated or Ill Person

It’s not uncommon for individuals to find themselves in situations where they become intoxicated or fall ill, rendering them unable to navigate stairs without assistance. In such cases, your primary goal should be their safety.

  • Assess the Situation: Determine the level of impairment or illness. If the person is conscious and co-operative but physically unable to manage the stairs, proceed with caution.
  • Request Assistance: If possible, enlist the help of others to ensure a safe transition up or down the stairs. Having more people can provide additional support and reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Use Proper Techniques: When moving someone on stairs, use proper lifting and guiding techniques. Move slowly and steadily, avoiding sudden movements.
  • Monitor Vital Signs: If the person is ill, monitor their vital signs (pulse, breathing, etc.) throughout the process. If their condition deteriorates, seek immediate medical assistance.

Dealing with a Non-Compliant Individual

First consideration needs to be – does the individual need to be moved up or down stairs, and why?

Managing non-compliant individuals on stairs requires careful consideration of safety for all parties involved. It is crucial to prevent any escalation of the situation.

  • Communication: Try to engage in a calm and respectful conversation with the person, explaining the situation and the consequences of their non-compliance.
  • Avoid Physical Force: Whenever possible, avoid physical confrontation. Attempt to de-escalate the situation verbally and encourage the person to cooperate.
  • Escorting Safely: If they continue to resist, follow through with the established protocol for removal. Ensure the safety of the person being removed as well as those assisting in the process.

Dynamic Risk Assessment Approach

In all cases, a dynamic risk assessment is essential before considering any stair-related activity.

A dynamic risk assessment is a mental evaluation of risk that is particularly useful when any delay could increase the potential for harm.

It can also serve as an initial step in a more formal risk assessment.

A dynamic risk assessment involves continuously assessing the situation, taking into account changing circumstances, and adjusting actions accordingly.

Factors to consider include the individual’s condition, behaviour, the number of people available to assist, and the nature of the staircase area.

Reminder Points to Note

Navigating stairs with individuals in challenging situations requires a delicate balance between compassion and safety.

Prioritising the well-being of all parties involved, assessing risks dynamically, and following established protocols are crucial steps in ensuring that such manoeuvres are conducted safely and efficiently, is or paramount importance.

Always remember that safety should never be compromised, and alternative solutions should be explored whenever feasible to avoid the use of stairs in high-risk situations!

In summary

Our opinion, as outline in guidance, is that it is not enough to only expect staff to conduct a “dynamic risk assessment”.

As the activity of moving a person up/down a set of stairs is a foreseeable risk, a full suitable and sufficient assessment of risk should be undertaken by a competent person of the employing agency in advance of any ‘dynamic risk assessment’.

We agree that moving someone up or down stairs is a hazardous activity that carries a high degree of risk.

Therefore, in undertaking the legal requirement in assessing and managing that risk guidance should be sought for compliance with the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) 2005. The Regulations apply to all work at height, where there is risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury.

The WAHR place duties on employers, and those who control any work at height activity (such as facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).

As part of the Regulations, all employers must ensure:

  • All work at height is properly planned and organised.
  • Those involved in work at height are competent.
  • The risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used.
  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed.
  • The equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

The Health and Safety Executive outline the legal requirement in their statement below:

“If you are an employer or self-employed. It is a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work. The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks.” (HSE website).

With regard to the process of risk assessment, the process for accessing the activity should be assessed for risk in line with the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended), because the risk involves a ‘manual handling activity’ and the moving of an unsafe load.

The following assessment therefore has been constructed to identify any additional hazards and provide suitable and sufficient control measures as part of every employer’s statutory duty and in line with all of the above regulations.

Each venue will have it’s own unique hazards and issues and therefore each venue, care provider, security personnel, enforcement agency, etc, should undertake their own individual risk assessment of the risks of their environments that their staff will be operating in.

See previous posts we have published on this issue:

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