OSHA Regulations on Stairs

Written by greg epperly
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OSHA Regulations on Stairs
Stairs (stairs image by Mijakowska from Fotolia.com)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 approximately 3 per cent of injuries from falls involved stairs or steps. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration utilises 29 CFR 1910.24 to describe stair and stairway design and construction requirements. This regulation provides guidelines for both permanent and nonpermanent stairs and stairways. OSHA has also created a consolidated guide (Publication 3124) and includes stairway training as part of its Outreach Training Program.

General Requirements

This standard discusses general requirements "for the safe design and construction of fixed general industrial stairs." This includes stairs leading between floors and around equipment or machinery. Stairs used as fire exits are not included. Fixed stairs are required wherever regular travel between levels or floors takes place. Areas where workers have to carry items by hand, such as supplies or tools, require stairs, because ladders would be unsafe. Spiral staircases are allowed only in areas where a normal staircase is impractical. Winding staircases are allowed around tanks or other round structures, provided the structure's diameter is at least 5 feet.

Stair Construction Requirements

The proper construction of stairs and stairways include requirements for strength, width, angle of rise, nonslip treads, platforms, and vertical clearance. Stairs are required to be able to carry a load at least five times a normal workload, or 454 Kilogram, whichever is greater. Stairs have to be at least 22 inches wide. The angle of rise is determined by the height between stairs and the depth of the tread. The OSHA-required angle is between 30 and 50 degrees. The rise and tread depth have to be uniform over the entire flight of stairs. Stair treads are required to be slip-resistant, accomplished either with the stair material itself or with an applied coating. Stairway platforms are required to be at least as wide as the stairs and at least 30 inches long. There must be at least 7 feet of vertical clearance between treads and any overhead objects.

Handrail Construction Requirements

Every flight of stairs with four or more risers (the vertical piece of the stair) is required to have railings. These railings consist of a top rail between 30 and 34 inches above the tread surface and a middle rail half way between the tread and top rail. One end of the rails should be directly attached to a wall to provide maximum stability. If the railing is made from wood, a post is required at least every 6 feet. If the railing is made from pipe, a post is required at least every 8 feet.

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