Don’t slip up when designing bathrooms

Did you know that there are an estimated 35,000 falls a year, resulting in more than 6,000 people dying due to injuries sustained in the home alone. To put that in perspective, there are 234 hospital admissions due to falls for every single fire-related admission, and it’s the most vulnerable – under-fives and over-65s – who are most at risk.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness of just how dangerous our homes can be and how architects can reduce that risk through careful design of surfaces.

The new campaign is called Safer by Design and concentrates on the mitigation of hazards that typically do not attract the same level of public scrutiny compared with other hazards, such as fire. It covers various hazards associated with the greatest likelihood of occurrence in new homes – eg falls, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, entrapment and poisoning from household chemicals. These risks often go unnoticed publicly, because they happen behind closed doors, and yet they each affect many thousands of people every year, causing death and serious injury.

RoSPA’s Safer by Design framework provides a set of simple, low-cost home safety improvements, developed in consultation with industry experts, to be planned in at the design stage. While they go beyond current building regulatory requirements, the recommendations are, crucially, commercially and technically viable within both the private and social housing sectors.

Falls in bathrooms alone result in a staggering 54,000 visits to A&E and 80 deaths a year. Many of these occur when people are getting into or out of the bath or shower, or lose their balance when in a bath or shower or when standing up after using the toilet. As a designer, you could find yourself liable for a claim for compensation for failing to have taken the risk into account with your design. So, before you specify that lovely polished marble finish perhaps you should take a moment to think whether it’s appropriate in that location.

To find out more check out our column in Architects Journal