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General Requirements - Stairs

Introduction

The rules covering stairways depend on how and when the stairs are used. For example, there are requirements for stairways used during construction and stairs used temporarily during construction (1926.1052).

Stairways Used During Construction

rise/run stairs
Angles for stairs, ramps, and ladders
(Click to enlarge)

The following requirements apply to all stairways used during construction (1926.1052(a)):

  • Stairways that will not be a permanent part of the structure on which construction work is performed must have landings at least 30 inches deep and 22 inches wide (76 x 56 cm) at every 12 feet (3.7 m) or less of vertical rise.
  • Stairways must be installed at least 30 degrees, and no more than 50 degrees, from the horizontal.
  • Variations in riser height or stair tread depth must not exceed 1/4 inch in any stairway system, including any foundation structure used as one or more treads of the stairs.
  • Where doors or gates open directly onto a stairway, a platform must be provided that is at least 20 inches (51 cm) in width beyond the swing of the door.
  • Metal pan landings and metal pan treads must be secured in place before filling.
  • All stairway parts must be free of dangerous projections such as protruding nails.
  • Slippery conditions on stairways must be corrected.
  • Spiral stairways that will not be a permanent part of the structure may not be used by workers.

1. Stairways used during construction must be installed at least _____, and no more than _____, from the horizontal.

a. 30 degrees, 40 degrees
b. 30 degrees, 50 degrees
c. 40 degrees, 50 degrees
d. 40 degrees, 60 degrees

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Temporary Stairways Used During Construction

The following requirements apply to all temporary stairways used during construction (1926.1052(b)):

construction stairs
  • Except during construction of the actual stairway, stairways with metal pan landings and treads must not be used where the treads and/or landings have not been filled in with concrete or other material, unless the pans of the stairs and/or landings are temporarily filled in with wood or other material. All treads and landings must be replaced when worn below the top edge of the pan.
  • Except during construction of the actual stairway, skeleton metal frame structures and steps must not be used (where treads and/or landings are to be installed at a later date) unless the stairs are fitted with secured temporary treads and landings.
  • Temporary treads must be made of wood or other solid material and installed the full width and depth of the stair.

2. During construction, what must the treads of temporary stairs be made of?

a. Wood or other solid material
b. Only galvanized metal is allowed
c. Any type of hardwood
d. Any material that is corrosion resistant

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Stairrail and Handrail Requirements

A handrail means a rail to provide employees with a handhold for support. A stairrail or stairrail system means a barrier erected along the exposed or open side of stairways to prevent employees from falling to a lower level.

construction stairs
Four or more risers will generally require a stairrail.

The following general requirements apply to stairrails and handrails (1926.1052(c)):

  • Stairways with four or more risers or rising more than 30 inches (76 cm) in height—whichever is less—must be installed with:
    1. at least one handrail, and
    2. one stairrail system along each unprotected side or edge.
  • Winding and spiral stairways must be equipped with a handrail offset sufficiently to prevent walking on those portions of the stairways where the tread width is less than 6 inches (15 cm).
  • Stairrails must be not less than 36 inches (91.5 cm) from the upper surface of the stairrail system to the surface of the tread, in line with the face of the riser at the forward edge of the tread.
  • Unprotected sides and edges of stairway landings must have standard 42-inch (1.1 m) guardrail systems.

The following general requirements apply to systems in which a stairrail also serves as a handrail:

  • When the top edge of a stairrail system also serves as a handrail, the height of the top edge must be not more than 37 inches (94 cm) nor less than 36 inches (91.5 cm) from the upper surface of the stairrail system to the surface of the tread, in line with the face of the riser at the forward edge of the tread.

3. Stairrails installed during construction must not be less than ___ in height.

a. 30 inches
b. 33 inches
c. 36 inches
d. 39 inches

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Handrail Requirements

Requirements for handrails are as follows (1926.1052(c)):

handrail requirements
Handrail height requirements.
  • Handrails and top rails of the stairrail systems must be able to withstand, without failure, at least 200 pounds (890 n) of weight applied within 2 inches (5 cm) of the top edge in any downward or outward direction, at any point along the top edge.
  • The height of handrails must be not more than 37 inches (94 cm) nor less than 30 inches (76 cm) from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface of the tread, in line with the face of the riser at the forward edge of the tread.
  • Handrails must provide an adequate handhold for employees to grasp to prevent falls.
  • Temporary handrails must have a minimum clearance of 3 inches (8 cm) between the handrail and walls, stairrail systems and other objects.
  • Stairways with four or more risers or that rise more than 30 inches (76 cm) in height, whichever is less, must have at least one handrail.
  • Winding or spiral stairways must have a handrail to prevent use of areas where the tread width is less than 6 inches (15 cm).

4. Handrails must be able to withstand, without failure, how many pounds of weight applied with 2 inches of the top edge in any downward or outward direction?

a. At least 150 lbs
b. At least 200 lbs
c. At least 250 lbs
d. At least 300 lbs

Next Section

handrail requirements
Stairs, such as those found on ships, can be very steep and present a serious fall hazard.

Mid Rail Requirements

Mid rails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members or equivalent intermediate structural members must be provided between the top rail and stairway steps to the stairrail system. When mid rails are used, they must be located midway between the top of the stair rail system and the stairway steps.

In addition:

  • Stairrail systems and handrails must be surfaced to prevent injuries such as punctures or lacerations and to keep clothing from snagging.
  • The ends of stairrail systems and handrails must be built to prevent dangerous projections, such as rails protruding beyond the end posts of the system.
  • Intermediate vertical members, such as balusters used as guardrails, must not be more than 19 inches (48 cm) apart.
  • Other structural members, when used, must be installed such that there are no openings in the stairrail system that are more than 19 inches (48 cm) wide.

Stairs and 3-Point Control

Applying three-point control to stairs requires two continuous handrails to allow a constant grip while moving up and down the stairway. Arms and hands should be free of materials, enabling them to support the full body weight if necessary. Stairs, such as those found on ships, can be very steep and present a serious fall hazard.

5. Why are two hand rails required on stair systems such as those on ships?

a. To ensure both left- and right-handed persons can climb the stairs
b. To make three-point-contact while carrying objects down the stairs
c. Because the U.S. Coast Guard requires it
d. To allow for three-point-control methods when climbing the stairs

Check your Work

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Video

VIDEO

Watch this great Vivid Learning Systems video by a former OSHA inspector on stairway safety.

Final Exam

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