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Safer Stairs: Building towards change

Safer Stairs: Building towards change


There are many victories that we know of only via their end result. Whilst this is often the most exciting or notable portion of a triumph, it’s important that we pause and reflect on the steps it took to get to a defining moment of change.


The Safer Stairs campaign is now something closely tied to RoSPA’s branding, as a tangible piece of change that arose when a range of experts from different fields converged on an issue that they felt needed necessary alterations. What small moments were needed to made this huge advance forward?

July 2020 – The Building Act Arrives in Parliament

There were many factors that caused this bill to be drafted, but perhaps the tragedy of Grenfell was the most resonant. Acting as a method to ensure the safety of tenants and homeowners across the nation, Building Safety and Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh noted:

“I am also calling on the industry to actively prepare for these changes now. It is vital that the sector moves in step with us, to provide confidence and reassurance to residents that their safety is firmly at the heart of everything we do.”
However, there was one glaring ‘step’ missing from the bill’s initial outline: stairs.

January 2021 – Another Politician Echoes RoSPA’s call

At the report stage of the Building Act, a friend of the charity and MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard first raises the suggestion of British Standard 5395-1 being enshrined into UK law.

During his speech, he states: “Independent safety campaigners such as RoSPA are confident from the statistics that this simple measure will save more lives than perhaps anything else in the entire Bill.”

October 2021 – RoSPA Seizes the Moment

After consultation with those in the building industry such as Berkeley Group and Housing Association Orbit, as well as MPs and a range of other organisations and political figures, RoSPA turned in a written submission to the Building Safety Bill Committee where they laid out their reasonings to amend the Building Safety Bill so that it included a vital provision on stair safety.

A key statement from the submissions reads: “Improving safety standards for stair design will significantly reduce the number of people needlessly dying and getting hurt, and there is an existing framework (British Standard 5395- 1:2010) which does exactly this. Stairs built to this British Standard in new build homes result in an estimated 60% fewer falls.

February 2022 – Amendments to Building Act Further Discussed in House of Lords

A key turning point in the Safer Stairs campaign came when a meeting between Lord Greenhalgh and Hywel Davies, Chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee resulted in an agreement to propose an amendment to the Building Act.

The Baron uttered a prolific, passionate speech, which included an appeal for updating the Building Regulations to include British Standard 5395-1 on stair design.

He said: “Safer stairs would mean safer homes, and that in turn would mean not only that many lives would be saved but also that their quality would be infinitely improved… Our staircases are a very real danger, hiding in plain sight.”

March 2022 – A major breakthrough

The Government proceeds with a consultation on updating the Building Regulations to include British Standard 5395-1 on stair design, pledging to complete the review “as expeditiously as possible, and certainly within the year”. 

Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s Chief Executive Officer, remarked: “We have been persistent and focused in the pursuit of our aim to have every new home built with stairs meeting the British Standard. And we have pursued all avenues to make this a reality. It is a credit to our resolve, and the resolve of our supporters, that so many politicians and peers have backed us by making impassioned speeches in both houses.

“However, even though we have reached this momentous position, we are not being complacent. Our work will continue until the consultation is complete, and the standard is a legal requirement fully reflected in the Building Regulations. And in this regard, I would like to commend our partners who have stood with us, and provided their backing all the way. This is as much an achievement for these enlightened house builders as it is for RoSPA – ultimately it is our incredibly important coalitions with the industry that have placed us in this position. Together these actions will save many, many lives and unnecessary injuries for thousands of people.”

Speaking on behalf of RoSPA’s Presidential team, Baroness Jolly, RoSPA President, said: “We are delighted that the Government has now committed to a consultation on adopting British Standard 5395-1 into the Building Regulations. It has been a long campaign and we are incredibly grateful to all those people, businesses and organisations who have been involved. This excellent news follows many months of discussions with Ministers and Government and it is wonderful to see the efforts from all quarters coming to fruition.

“This is a real achievement for everyone involved – we hope this will save lives and make the homes of the future safer places to live. Thank you to all our supporters. Our work at RoSPA will continue on this life-saving initiative.”

The Present

The claim that the updates to building regulations would be completed “as expeditiously as possible, and certainly within the year” was indeed a optimistic one, but RoSPA will continue to ensure that the pledges agreed upon come to fruition as swiftly as possible. 

Until then, RoSPA will continue to campaign for Safer Stairs.


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