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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 stairs used during construction and stairs used temporarily during construction.

Stairways Used During Construction

The following requirements apply to all stairways used during construction:

construction stairs
  • 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.

Temporary Stairways Used During Construction

The following requirements apply to all temporary stairways used during construction:

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.

Stair Rail Requirements

The following general requirements apply to all stair rails:

rise/run stairs
Count the total number of risers (vertical distance) on the stairway to determine if a stair rail is required.
(Click to enlarge)
  • Stairways with four or more risers or rising more than 30 inches (76 cm) in height—whichever is less—must be installed along each unprotected side or edge. When the top edge of a stair rail system also serves as a handrail, the height of the top edge must be no more than 37 inches (94 cm) nor less than 36 inches (91.5 cm) from the upper surface of the stair rail to the surface of the tread.
  • Stair rails installed after March 15, 1991, must not be less than 36 inches (91.5 cm) in height.
  • Top edges of stair rail systems used as handrails must not be more than 37 inches (94 cm) high nor less than 36 inches (91.5 cm) from the upper surface of the stair rail system to the surface of the tread. (If installed before March 15, 1991, not less than 30 inches [76 cm]).
  • Stair rail systems and handrails must be surfaced to prevent injuries such as punctures or lacerations and to keep clothing from snagging.
  • Ends of stair rail systems and handrails must be built to prevent dangerous projections, such as rails protruding beyond the end posts of the system.

In addition:

  • Unprotected sides and edges of stairway landings must have standard 42-inch (1.1 m) guardrail systems.
  • Intermediate vertical members, such as balusters used as guardrails, must not be more than 19 inches (48 cm) apart.
  • Other intermediate structural members, when used, must be installed so that no openings are more than 19 inches (48 cm) wide.

Handrail Requirements

Requirements for handrails are as follows:

handrail requirements
Handrails must not be more than 37 inches (94 cm) high nor less than 30 inches (76 cm) from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface of the tread.
(Click to enlarge)
  • Handrails and top rails of the stair rail 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.
  • Handrails must not be more than 37 inches (94 cm) high nor less than 30 inches (76 cm) from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface 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, stair rail 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).
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 stair rail system. When mid rails are used, they must be located midway between the top of the stair rail system and the stairway steps.

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.

Final Words

Let’s get to your final module quiz! Also, there is a glossary of terms following the quiz!

VIDEO

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

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Stairways must be installed at LEAST _________ degrees.

2. Stairways that have four or more risers MUST have a stair rail.

3. 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?

4. Stair rails installed after March 15th, 1991 must not be less than ____________ in height.

5. Stairways must be installed at no more than ____________ from the horizontal.


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.