Stairs ... the silent killer

February 9, 2017


This picture was posted on the Tortylicious Facebook page by Grant Benskin (thanks Grant!), who recently found himself in Washington D.C, where he noted this example of what we in the Torts business like to call a 'warning sign'. I have some concerns. 


Does this sign, as one Tortylicious commentator wondered, even fit within the definition of a warning sign? Could it simply be an invitation to speak to the stairs and tell them not to make the same mistakes you did? Perhaps. But then I remembered stairs are inanimate objects. So perhaps not. 


Given that it almost certainly is a warning sign, the issue that concerns me here is placement. What is the purpose of putting the sign at the bottom of the stairs rather than at the top? I'm all for a good warning sign and I'm no stair expert but it seems to me that if you can see the actual sign warning you of the stairs, you can probably, you know, see the actual stairs. But then it occurred to me that maybe falling up the stairs is actually worse than falling down? I decided to investigate. 


After extensive research*, I have to say, it's not looking good for this particular sign's placement. There were a couple of forums dedicated to this vexing issue but the few people brave enough to comment discussed falling both up AND down stairs (take away point: stubbed toes are a big 'up fall' issue although one woman did manage to bite her lip a bit as well. It bled, people!!). The Facebook page 'tbh I Fall Up The Stairs More Than I Fall Down Them' has an impressive 143 651 likes, which made me think I was on the verge of a breakthrough, but it turned out not to be the case. The page was full of, not only non-stair related (albeit important) questions, such as 'Katie Price or Peter Andre?' and 'Starbucks or Subway?' but (get this) VIDEOS OF PEOPLE FALLING DOWN STAIRS.  Exactly. 


So, to summarise:


SIGN #1 (Washington)

Visuals: elegant font, nice colour choices. Solid construction of post.

Clarity of Message: Short with some low-level ambiguity

Placement: Unacceptable


Overall, this sign has some very good points. Its message is straight to the point and the conservative choice of background colour is appropriate for its location. (Plus, the silver writing makes the message really 'pop' against the marble stairs, amirite?). However, it's clear from the research that this sign is not taking its job warning people seriously. Because people don't fall up stairs, they fall down them. You're welcome, Washington DC. 


*I googled 'is falling up stairs worse than falling down'

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