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Cal/OSHA Safety Requirements: Stairways, Ramps, and More

cal safety requirements stairways stair rails ramps

California safety requirements for the construction of stairways, ramps, stair rails which is governed by the California Code of Regulations.

Guidelines Regarding Construction of Stairwells and Stairs Under California Code of Regulations

There are several guidelines regarding the construction of stairwells and stairs in the California Code of Regulations, (Chapter 4. Division of Industrial Safety, Subchapter 4. Construction Safety Orders) Article 17 on Ramps, Runways, Stairwells, and Stairs. In this blog, we will simplify the regulations listed by Cal/OSHA, so that you can ensure that your property abides with all safety requirements.  When stairways, ramps, stairwells and so forth are not constructed accordingly, an injured party maybe file a premises liability claim against the property owner for damages suffered. Therefore, ensuring your property is up to California safety standards is vital.

California Stairway Construction Requirements

Before moving on to the specifics of stairways used during construction and stair rails/hand rails,  a general guideline for all stairways requires them to be, at least 24 inches in width and fortified with stair rails, handrails, treads, and landings. In addition, all railings and toe boards should meet the requirements listed in Article 16 of the California Code of Regulations. Article 16 describes all safety measures for design and construction of railings and toe boards (§1620, §1621). 

What are the Requirements for Design of Stairways Used During Construction in California?

According to the California Code of Regulations, the requirements for the design of stairways used during construction are as specified: 

  • Temporary stairways used during construction (not meant to remain a permanent part of the property) are also required to be 24 inches in width and must have landings at each floor, or level, of at least 30 inches deep (in the direction of travel) and 24 inches wide at every 12 feet (3.7 m) or less of vertical rise. Workers must not use spiral, temporary stairways on location. 
  • The stairways must be installed between 30 degrees to 50 degrees from horizontal. 
  • The riser height and tread depth must be the same within each flight of stairs, and should not exceed 1/4 inch (0.6 cm). 
  • If a stairway is placed near a door or gate opening, the stairway must have a platform between the swing of the door and the stairs of no less than 20 inches (51 cm).
  • All sides of the stairway must have railings. 
  • Metal pan landings and metal pan treads must be secured in place before filling with concrete, or any other fortifying material. 
  • The stairway must be free of dangerous, hazardous objects ( ex. jutting nails). In addition, if the stairway is slippery, this condition must be fixed before its usage.  

What are the California Regulations for Stair Rails and Hand Rails?

The following general requirements by the California Code of Regulations apply to all stair rails and hand rails:

  • A stairway with four or more risers, or rising more than 30 inches (76 cm), must be fortified with: one handrail (minimum requirement) and a stair rail, top rail, and mid-rail, along each unprotected side. The stair rails and hand rails should be incorporated as to prevent injuries of the employees, provide an adequate handhold, and prevent the tearing of clothing; or any other punctures or lacerations. In addition, the stair rails, handrails and mid-rails must be constructed so as not to create hazard.
  • Handrails and top rails of the stairs must be able to endure, clearly without failure, at least 200 pounds (890 n) of weight when applied within 2 inches (5 cm) of the top in any downward or outward direction, at any point along the top edge.
  • The height of the stair rails should not be less than 34 inches and should not exceed 38 inches from the upper surface to the tread.  
  • In the case that the top edge of the stair also serves as a handrail, the height should be at least 34 inches, and no more than 38 inches from the upper surface of the stair rail to the surface of the tread.
  • Mid-rails should preferably be located at a height midway between the top edge of the stair rail and the stairway steps. In addition, when materials such as screens, mesh, or others used in mid-rails, they are required to extend from the top rail to the stairway step; ensuring that there are no openings in the stair rail of more than 18 inches (46 cm) wide.
  • In the case of spiral and winding stairways, these must be equipped with a handrail to prevent walking on areas were the tread width is less than 6 inches (15 cm). 
  • If a handrail has been placed as part of a temporary structure, it must have a minimum clearance of 3 inches (8 cm) between the handrail and walls, stair rails, and other objects.

California Regulations for Temporary Service of Stairways

The California Code of Regulations also describes the temporary service of stairways. The following are to be monitored at all times, except during stairway construction. 

  • Individuals must stay off the stairway with pan stairs where the treads and/or landings are to be filled with concrete or other material.
  • Individuals must stay off the ‘skeleton’ of the stairway, such as metal stairs, where the permanent treads/landings are to be installed, unless the stairs are to be secured temporarily with solid material long enough to cover the entire skeleton area. 
  • In addition treads for temporary usage must be made of wood or any other solid material that will withstand weight, and cover the full width and depth of the stair. These must also be replaced when needed (usually below the level of the top edge of the pan). 

Glendale Construction Business Lawyers

If you have any questions regarding proper safety measures on the construction of stairwells and stairs, abiding with the California Code of Regulations, please do not hesitate to contact one of our very skilled, dedicated, and knowledgeable lawyers. We know that these very specific, and sometimes confusing, regulations are complex; thus, it is for this reason that we recommend talking with one of our experienced Glendale business law attorneys whom are experienced in will assist you in ensuring that your property stands with the law. 

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