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Design for Safety
Worksite Redesign Technical Advisory Project

Table of Contents

Design Considerations for Living areas:

  • Design configuration and details of major living spaces must address the needs of intended users and their staff.
  • Air filtration should be considered to reduce respiratory ailments and sharing colds between staff and residents.
  • In all cases, the room must:
    • Be open visually to promote staff-to-resident visual contact
    • Be well-lit and ventilated, both naturally and mechanically
    • Be heated and air-conditioned to maintain an even temperature of 70° at 1' above the floor
    • Create a setting that supports a sense of community
    • Support and encourage staff to fully participate in creation of a home
    • Provide adequate space for movement and turning
    • Provide floor coverings and finishes that are hygienic and support movement by staff

If wheelchairs or equipment must be moved around, hard surfaces are the best choice in flooring. Carpeting and rugs raise issues of hygiene and safety. Rugs present problems for residents and staff where resident mobility is impaired by introducing unwanted friction. Hygiene is dangerously compromised and, in some cases, replacement is the only solution. Replacement of carpets is highly undesirable since off-gas from new carpets presents serious and unnecessary lung-irritant exposure to both residents and staff. If carpets are used, choose commercial grade, vinyl-backed carpeting that is antibacterial-treated.

Vinyl composition tile, composition wood, tile, and even cork should be considered as better flooring choices. These materials reduce the amount of force required to move equipment. In all cases, floors must be maintained per the manufacturers' specifications.

Furnishings such as bookcases, vertical entertainment centers, and plant shelves, must be secured to prevent accidental tipping. In general, choose furniture that has rounded edges or softened corners, and that is solid and easy to keep clean. Built-in shelves and cabinets often save floor space.

Whenever possible, two separate living spaces are preferred to one. This affords the opportunity of separating activities, behaviors or functions. Injuries can often be prevented by physical separation. This also keeps bedrooms from becoming living areas because no other option exists.

Consideration should be given to protecting staff and/or residents from injuries sustained from falling accidents. Padding fireplaces and hearths, tables and shelf corners is desirable.

Adequate room for movement, turning and work performance must be provided. Constrained work space supports poor lifting and movement by staff. Dining areas especially require ample room for serving, assisting, arrival, departure and clean-up.

Living areas create a setting that supports a sense of community. Design features should promote both staff and residents to participate in the home environment. Designs that provide abundant natural light and open space invite participants to use the space. Due to the special needs of many residents, care must always be taken to allow for turning radiuses for wheelchairs and equipment, and safe side-by-side access for staff attending to residents. Safe, hygienic floor coverings and finishes promote ease of cleaning and maintenance for staff, thus allowing more time with residents. Designs that feature maximum visual contact of residents by staff from adjacent rooms or hall areas promote safety.

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Pioneer Pike
  • Cork floor laid over heated slab provides warmth and easy cleaning, and is inviting for floor activities
  • Glass within 12" of doors and less than 18" from floor must be tempered
  • Room is large enough for movement for the five seated residents
  • Secure shelving or entertainment centers to walls to prevent tipping

48th Street
  •  Open design permits staff to maintain audio/visual contact with residents
  • Exterior doors are visible from kitchen/dining
  • Vinyl and vinyl-composition tile must be properly maintained to ensure both floor serviceability and cleanliness
  • Windows in dining room open to courtyard
  • Re-light window allows view through house
  • Keep traffic patterns open and free of obstruction
  • Secure upright furnishings
  • Vinyl is a good choice in a home for residents using wheelchairs
  • Kick plates and corner guards will protect corners and edges, and will prevent splintering of wooden cabinets

High Street

  • Home design offers staff good visibility throughout house from major activity areas
  • Recessed lighting is a safe choice where protruding light fixtures could present hazards, however they provide less light than a surface light fixture of the same wattage
  • Area rugs may pose tripping hazards
  • Outside wall corners have been softened
  • Free-standing shelves should be secured to prevent tipping

Dean Avenue

  • Good natural light provided in this room
  • Upright cabinets and plant stand should be secured to prevent tipping
  • Area rug may pose tripping hazard
  • Path to the exit door needs to be kept clear and open

River Road
  • A bright room - a bay of floor-to-ceiling windows on the left and skylights bring in natural light
  • Edges and surfaces are hardened and protected
  • Bookcase secured to wall
  • Furniture chosen for rounded and safe edges, and ability to be cleaned easily

  • Fireplace is sealed
  • Padding used for protection of a brick hearth
  • Outside corners protected
  • Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) protects walls from damage by chairs
  • Board under chair is a tripping hazard

Santa Clara Avenue
  • Open design allows good visual access
  • Transition between vinyl and carpet is smooth
  • Room has good light and ventilation
  • Unprotected brick hearth may be a danger
  • Built-in shelves increase floor space 

Hard-edged objects like hearths
or tables can be padded.

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  • Exit clearly marked and illuminated with battery-powered back-up, emergency lighting
  • Furniture organized around the outside of the room maximizes usable moving and turning space
  • Florescent lights in valance around the living room, recessed can-lights, surface-mounted fixtures and floor lamps create lighting options
  • Sheet-vinyl flooring on a cement slab and the absence of rugs make movement of wheelchairs easy in this living room


  • Roll-under table supports activities for a wheelchair-seated resident
  • Space provides a homey atmosphere
  • Floor must be kept clear of objects 

High Street

Pioneer Pike
  • Operable window retrofitted into window-wall provides ventilation, as well as natural light
  • Separate designated space for physical therapy reduces staff labor in set--up and break-down of equipment
  • Vinyl flooring on a heated cement slab makes space quite warm and comfortable for physical therapy

  • Placement of security system panel must be evaluated in each home based on resident requirements. One solution does not fit all. Design for your population
  • Skylight provides natural lighting
  • Heat distribution is a problem in this home because of ceiling height
  • Light-colored walls and ceiling accentuate the natural light
  • Ceiling lights provide inadequate lighting where ceiling is vaulted 
End of Living Rooms


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