Stairway Design Standards - Expert Introduction

In this article, the premises safety experts at Robson Forensic provide an introduction to the 2009 International Building Code stairway design requirements for new buildings. Particular attention is paid to the aspects of stairway design and construction that are most often associated with slip, trip, and fall injuries.

Stairway Premises Liability Expert Witness


Standards for stairways are derived from how people walk, act, and see. The design and construction features of safe stairs are intended to provide the public with stairways that are consistent in design and construction, and that include features to assist them to use the stairs safely.

Standards for stairway design are defined in building codes, fire codes, and property maintenance codes. Standards are also published by ASTM, the National Safety Council, the NFPA Life Safety Code, and the National Bureau of Standards.

In addition to their dimensions, other design, construction, and maintenance factors contribute to stairway safety, including slip-resistance, lighting, and surroundings. All of these factors contribute to the overall safety of the condition.

Expert Witness Stairway Design
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  1. Variations in riser heights can cause trips and falls
  2. When present, nosings need to be regular and conspicuous
  3. Stairs with fewer than 4 risers are called “low rise stairs” and are associated with a higher frequency of falls
  4. Handrails should be within 30” of any travel path
  5. Flooring materials should be securely attached to treads and risers


The Premises Safety experts at Robson Forensic are frequently retained to investigate cases involving the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of residential, institutional, and commercial premises. We conduct site inspections, perform tests, and review applicable standards to learn facts and form opinions about how and why individuals were injured within the built environment.

For more information visit our Premises Safety practice page

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