Is it possible to claim compensation for tripping on steps in an office? Our office steps are very steep and narrow, and many complaints have been made about them by staff in the past. I took extra care as always, but tripped and broke my jaw when I fell.

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

You should be entitled to make a claim for compensation for tripping on steps in an office if the design of the steps was not suitable for a public building. There are building regulations in force in Ireland governing the dimensions of steps, and what is acceptable and safe. If the steps in your office are narrower and/or steeper than stated in the technical guidance section of the Building Regulations (1997) then your employer may be held responsible for any accident which occurs on the steps.

An office is classed as a semi-private building. This means that a relatively high number of people are likely to use the steps, and not everyone may be totally familiar with the steepness or width. For this type of staircase the minimum width of the step – termed “going” – is 250mm. The maximum height of each step – termed the “rise” is 190mm. If the steps are steeper and narrower than these maximum levels, your employer has a legal responsibility to make changes to the staircase to bring the stairs in line with current building regulations. Failure to do so could represent a failure in a duty of care to staff and negligence on the part of your employer. It is possible that a claim for compensation for tripping on steps in an office could be made on these grounds.

You should certainly make a report of the accident in your employer’s accident book detailing the reason for the trip, and the date and time of the accident. Since numerous complaints have been made previously, and nothing has been done to correct the problem, a claim for compensation for tripping on steps in an office may spur your employer to make changes to ensure that the office is made safer.

If you measure the “rise” and “going” of the steps and find them to be within the maximum and minimum limits above, there may still be grounds for claiming compensation for tripping on steps in an office if the steps are unsafe. The “nosing” –the amount that each step juts out – is also covered by these regulations, as are the risers and tread on the steps. Any floor covering may also be inappropriate for the steps and may make the risk of a trip or slip unacceptably high.

Regardless of the step measurements, you should speak with a personal injury solicitor about your case to confirm whether you are eligible to make a claim for compensation for tripping on the steps in an office against your employer. Your solicitor will listen to your account of the accident, and will advise you of any other actions you need to take to help support your claim for office trip injury compensation.