• Stairways or ramps should be provided at worker points of access where there is a break in elevation of 19 inches.
  • Ensure stair rails (not less than 36 inches in height) are installed on all stairways with four or more risers or rising more than 30 inches.
  • Ensure that stairways are not used to store materials.
  • Except during construction of the actual stairway, skeleton metal frame structures and steps must not be used, unless the stairs are filled and secured with temporary treads and landings.
  • Mid-rail screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members, or equivalent intermediate structural members should be provided between the top rail and the stair rail system.
  • A handrail is required on stairways that rise more than 30″ or that have four or more risers.
  • Temporary handrails should have a minimum clearance of three inches between the handrail and the walls, stair rail system and other objects.
  • The unprotected sides and edges of stairway landings should be protected by a standard guardrail system.
  • A platform must be provided at all locations where doors or gates open directly into a stairway.
  • The swing of gates and doors should not reduce the effective width of the platform to less than 20 inches.


  • A guardrail is used to protect a floor opening or open sided floor four feet above the next level down. They can be found around elevator shafts, pits, duct chases, platforms, etc.
  • Guardrails must be capable of withstanding, without failure, a force of at least 200 pounds applied in any outward or downward direction on the top, 150 pounds on the mid rail and 50 pounds for the toe board.
  • A typical guardrail consists of a smooth surfaced top rail, approximately 42″ +/-3, with a mid-rail at 21” +/-3, and a toe-board above the walking or working level.
  • Smooth metal and/or pipe may be used for guardrails if minimum standards are met.
  • Guardrails should be installed on all stairs prior to use.
  • If guardrails/handrails are damaged or removed they must be repaired immediately.


  • Providing good protection of wall and floor openings is one way to prevent falls at heights of 4 feet or more.
  • Make sure that all wall and floor openings are properly guarded and if you must remove guardrails to work, put them back in place when you are done.
  • Covers may be used to protect workers from falling into openings in floors, roofs, etc.
  • Covers must be capable of supporting, without failure, twice the maximum intended load and be secured to prevent accidental displacement. Color code the cover or mark it with the word ‘hole’ to provide warning of the hazard.

As with any safety device, take the time to inspect all handrails, guardrails and covers before depending on them. Never lean on a guardrail unless you are sure it is strong enough to hold you. Avoid floor hole covers; walk around them. The person who installed it may not have secured it properly. When removing a hole cover, do not step forward or backward into the hole.

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