The Importance of Proper Stairway Construction

Many of us use stairways every day without putting much thought into their functionality or construction. However, stairs are an integral part of many homes and businesses, and at the very least, they serve as an alternative to an elevator during an emergency. It is because of this vital role that stairways must adhere to strict design and construction specifications, in addition to meeting other safety requirements.

OSHA Stairway Safety Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is dedicated to implementing and enforcing safety standards, and they have rigid policies regarding the construction of stairways. It is important to note that these OSHA requirements are intended for a stairway that is in a fixed position, such as a stairway that leads from one floor of a structure to the next. Also included in the fixed stairway regulations are stairs that lead to machinery or equipment.

OSHA requires that stair landings be no less than 20” in depth, and must maintain a minimum width of 22″; this allows adequate room for foot placement. Furthermore, to ensure that the risers are not too tall, steps must meet certain criteria to be deemed safe. If a stairway has more than four steps, it is mandatory to install handrails.

Slip & Fall Prevention

Applying treads or nosing to each step is an easy way to increase the safety level of any staircase. There is an array of products that can be used to create a non-slip surface on stairs, including traction strips, abrasive paints and coating, and mountable anti-slip plates, which will help reduce the chance of slippage, especially in wet or snowy conditions. There are also stair nosing products available, which provide added traction to the surface while protecting the edge of each step from being damaged.

If you’re building in the state of California, you’re mandated under Section 3306(r) of the Uniform Building Code Title 24 to install these types of safety products in order to provide a safer stairway for the visually impaired. In order to comply with Title 24, the nosing to be installed must consist of an abrasive surface for slip-prevention, and feature a clearly contrasting color.

Basic Use of Stair Stringers

Stairs stringers are the main structural components of a stairway, and they provide an area for each foot landing to be attached. Stair stringers have some complexities to them, and there is a certain amount of math required for calculating angles to make cuts. The rise and run must be found so that the stringer will have the correct dimensions, and to ensure that the number of steps meets OSHA standards. Fortunately, prefabricated step stringers offer a means of avoiding any calculations, and they can still be tailored to meet the builder’s needs.

Residential Versus Public Stairway Standards

There are differences in the standards that stairways are held to, depending on the type of structure they will be used in, such as residential, public, and industrial. While risers in residential structures must have a vertical height between 4″ and 8 ¼,” in industrial facilities risers must have a minimum height of 6 ½”, and cannot exceed 9 ½”. However, the calculations for these riser specifications are different for residential and industrial stairways, which does cause some differences. For the most part, variations in OSHA standards regarding stairways is minimal, but they always need to be considered.

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