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Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
I've got a client who doesn't want to put handrails on some exterior stairs with a 3 ft grade change to get to a fenced garden area. These stairs are not a "means of egress" for the building per the IBC. The question boils down to "if you build stairs that isn't governed under Chapter 10, does it need handrails?"

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

Ask an injury lawyer. My bet would be regardless of how it's classified, someone is getting sued if they fall off the stairs and get hurt.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
at risk of derailing this thread (pun intended).... Both of my sisters and my father are injury attorneys. i'm sure they don't have this answer. They would typically hire an expert from one of those companies which markets engineering testimony and forensic engineering services. There are usually 4 or 5 of those engineering outfits working a booth at every big trial attorney convention, or at least the ones i've attended with them (for the partying, of course).

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

Regardless of whether or not the stairs are required, by constructing stairs of a certain height, you have created a potential hazard. The method of addressing this hazard is by providing handrail or similar barrier. If someone sues the owner, he or she will wish they had paid for handrail instead of lawyers and medical treatment.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

Motorcity said it with much more eloquence than I. I jested about the injury lawyer, but ask them how much the settlement would be, then ask the owner which cost is preferred.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

In any case where the height above grade exceeds 30 inches you need a guardrail/handrail, by code, regardless of the use of the stair, walkway or platform.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
Thanks for responses

Ron, we don't have a grade warrant, the steps travel into the slope. i didn't give enough info for that to be ruled out. you're absolutely correct.

motorcity
"by constructing stairs of a certain height, you have created a potential hazard"
how are you qualifying this as a hazard? I haven't found anything so far which discusses site stairs which are not a part of egress. There is plenty of language in the code once the stairs become part of the egress to/from the public way.

US Access Board (the ADA people) discuss it briefly "210 Stairways: 210.1 General. Interior and exterior stairs that are part of a means of egress shall comply with 504." and "Advisory 210.1 General. Although theses requirements do not mandate handrails on stairs that are not part of a means of egress, State or local building codes may require handrails or guards." This language seems to indicate that those experts thought there was some gray area here and the committee punted the football.

I understand the CYA bit... but i am interested in hearing if other people in the crowdsource have found definition on this. Usually, when i suppose that something IS NOT addressed by applicable codes and standards, i have almost always been WRONG. I'm just trying to figure out how I'm wrong here as well. Site stairs not tied to egress are not present on all properties but are fairly common things to NOT be addressed by that engineering catch-all "all applicable codes and standards"

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

It is a hazard because with out a handrail or guardrail, you have an elevated surface without any means of fall protection. Think of it this way.....if the stairs were 50' tall, using your logic a handrail or guardrail would not be required simply because the stairs are not required by code.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
just to be clear... i'm not advocating one position or another regarding safety. i'm trying to determine if the applicable codes and standards are 1.silent; 2.explicitly allow; or 3.explicitly forbid.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

I would ask the client sign a waver exonerating you if anyone is injured, or ADA access is ever questioned. Make copies and have it handy for the deposition. In the end you will be the one on the hook for the design, or construction thereof.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

have the dwg show the rail, he can omit to build it

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

But don't suggest that verbally or otherwise. Make omitting the rail the client's decision.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

yep,
you can put it on a separate sheet of the drawings. making it ez for him to omit it

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

@darthsoilguy - codes don't forbid us from doing something positive. Do what you believe is prudent. I would show the railing on the drawing. If the client omits it that's their business. Of course if there is an injury - and your drawing shows the railing - it's still going to cost you money to prove you're not partially responsible.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
reviewing these comments, it appears to me that there is a consensus that 'exterior stairs should require handrails'. i also assume from these comments, that nobody so far can cite or knows where else to look for a relevant Code, Standard, or a committee paper which would require/recommend this. i also agree that codes don't stop us from doing something better. But, i would also say that codes are for setting a minimum and it seems weird to me that such a common and simple item appears to have evaded the code process. the part of my brain which is responsible for rampant speculation has been considering the possibility that this issue was not codified because it could affect the national, state, and local parks in a bad way.

i've already dealt with my individual situation (fyi, i advised for handrails), but i believe the value of these forum Q&A's are about 1% for the benefit of the OP and 99% for the benefit of the 100k+ of designers, most of which non-members, who end up here by a google search of keywords. although my issue is resolved, the issue appears to be open. . Future responses on the topic are absolutely welcome.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

DSG.....you were correct in your assessment and recommendations. Section 1015 of the IBC covers this. I also think that if the owner decides to delete the requirement, you have an obligation to inform him/her that to do so would be a violation of the building code and that you do not concur with their decision!

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
"by the book" section 1015 covers stairs that are included in a "means of egress". indeed, most exterior stairs are covered under means of egress as they usually provide safe passage from a door to a public way. And for those thinking about using ADA logic for designated paths....Even if there are multiple alternate paths to get to that public way, if the stair is on any one of those paths it counts by code. my situation is more like a travel path between 2 points on a property since there is no path to a public way.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

DSG2 - perhaps you should look to OSHA for guidance. Your argument is that IBC is not applicable to this stairway because it won't be used by the general public. However, an employer is legally obligated to provide a safe work place regardless.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

(OP)
i haven't said anything about use by general public. IBC Chapter 10 defines "means of egress" and uses the term "public way" for the point of discharge from the property which is a catchall for sidewalk/road/ROW. if the code were to describe egress as taking you from the building to another part of the property, then there would be no question. the problem is that Chapter 10 is very explicit that it is addressing egress between the building and the public way, and once Chapter 10 becomes inapplicable... there is really not much else left in the code which discusses stairs.

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

Perhaps OSHA should make a visit to the site below:

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

Congress can exempt itself from the law and they call the Mafia organized crime.machinegun

RE: Handrail for Exterior Stairs - USA code question

DSG2.....take a look at section 1013...your application probably doesn't fall within the exceptions, therefore required, with or without public access

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