Temporary Stairs

Falls are the primary hazard associated with stairs. These falls cause injuries and fatalities among construction workers. About half the injuries from falls require that the worker needs time away from work. Many workers sustain serious injuries from falling as little as six feet.

Stairs consist of risers, treads, landings, and hand and stair rails. The riser is the vertical part of the step, and the tread is the horizontal part of the step. Stairs should be installed at an angle between 30 and 50 degrees, and they should “have uniform riser height and tread depth, with less than a” ¼-inch of variation (Overview, 2016).

The handrail is a single rail fastened to the wall between 38 and 42 inches above the tread for the full length of the stairway to provide employees with a handhold for support. Stair rails are vertical barriers installed on the open sides of the stairs. Stair rails consist of a handrail, mid-rail, and uprights spaced along the length. There must be one handrail installed when stairs consist of four or more risers or when the complete staircase is higher than 30 inches. Handrails and top rails are used to steady workers and must be able to withstand the force of 200 pounds, applied along any point of the top edge.

If the construction site has landings with open sides, a standard 42-inch guardrail system must be installed on those open sides. By law a landing or platform must be provided every 12 feet from the ground. Stairway landings must be at least 30 inches deep and 22 inches wide. Guardrail systems may also be needed on platforms with a swinging door to protect from potential falls of six feet or more. “Where doors or gates open directly on a stairway or the door or gate extends at least 20 inches beyond the swing of the door” (Stair, 2016).

These hazards are exacerbated by using temporary structures to get to the work areas above the ground. Temporary stairways have permanent treads and landings that are to be filled in later. These are concrete forms or pans that are filled with concrete after the stairs set in place. Metal pan landings and treads are secured in place before filling with concrete.

Slippery stairs are a common danger caused by dirt, snow, or water. These conditions should be corrected as they are found. Stairway parts also must be kept free of projections that can cause injuries or snag clothing. It is important to build stairs and platforms to standard and fasten them properly so as not to weaken or fail. Stairs and platforms should always be kept clean of obstructions. Neither is a good location to store tools or material.

Stairs allow construction workers to work in buildings while they are under construction. Lower falls can result in injuries and incapacitation. Temporary Stairs are tools to work with and must be built and used properly to eliminate hazards. Additional information can be found in OSHA Publication 3124, titled “Stairways and Ladders.” This booklet can be found at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3124.pdf.


Overview of 1926 Subpart X – Brookhaven National Laboratory, https://www.bnl.gov/esh/shsd/PowerPoint/stair_ladders_c_files/slide0017.htm (accessed December 08, 2016).

Stair & Ladder (OSHA) Flashcards | Quizlet, https://quizlet.com/3504483/stair-ladder-osha-flash-cards/ (accessed December 08, 2016).

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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