General safety considerations
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 things to consider: Avoid lips at doorways to the outside, but ensure there is adequate drainage Use fitted carpet Install a fixed heating system so you don’t need portable heating appliances with cables trailing across the floor
Provide light switches at the entry door of rooms, corridors and stairs. Front entries should provide: Space for people to gather with some shelter. Surfaces that are non-slip when wet. A flat landing area immediately outside the front door.
An aluminium or timber door sill set into the floor to minimise lips that people have to lift their foot over.
The change from indoor to outdoor creates a potential for slips, trips and falls at each entry/exit point. Consider: A sheltered transition space at the door – such as a veranda, recessed porch or canvas awning.
Avoiding lips at external door sills. Sometimes this is difficult as you need to allow for water to drain off decks or balconies.
Making the transition from outside to inside as visible as possible especially where there’s a step.
Making glass panels in doors, particularly sliding doors, clearly recognisable as glass.
Well lit doorways.
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.
See consumer.org.nz for more information on slip resistant flooring. Consider: The kitchen should not be a traffic route between different parts of the house or to the outside.
A small kitchen can be more dangerous. If you fall you are more likely to hit something on the way down.
There should be an effective work triangle which minimises the need to carry hot or heavy objects.
Locate appliances and fittings to avoid over-reaching during normal use.
Lay floor tiles without lips or level differences between individual tiles. Light switches at entry points The kitchen needs to be well lit. Avoid high cupboards requiring you to stand on something to reach into them.
Provide accessible storage for frequently used items.
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. Consider: Floor drainage with the floor sloping to the drain point.
European-style showers with a level entry.
Securely installing shower screens so that if they are grabbed while falling they don’t collapse.
Non-slip surface finishes on the floor and in the bath or shower. See consumer.org.nz for more information on non-slip surfaces.
Grab rails for the bath, shower and toilet. Or make sure you position dwangs and studs so that you can retrofit grab rails at a later date if you need to.
Locating towel rails close to basins and showers to reduce water drips on the floor. Level floors with no lips or thresholds.
Not having to reach over a bath to open a window.
Avoiding showers over the bath – getting in and out of the bath can be a slip and fall risk.
Rounded edges for fittings and fixtures – injuries from impact with a round edge may reduce the severity of an injury.
Non-slip surfaces in the bath or shower.
Sufficient ventilation to remove damp air to reduce the risk of mould which can have health implications.
European, wet area or level-entry showers Level-entry showers are: Safer – tripping is reduced not having to step over a threshold.
Much easier to use when helping children, elderly, unwell or disabled people.
Are easier to access if there is an emergency.
Spacious enough to have room for a seat.
Floor surfaces within the levelentry shower and adjacent bathroom area should be slip resistant.