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Temporary Stairs – with Permanent Access Compliance

Temporary Stairs – with Permanent Access Compliance

Filling the Access Void

On residential or commercial sites, multi-storey design can mean challenges during the construction process. Stairwell installation is something that usually takes place towards the end of the main structure’s assembly, but access between storeys is needed, well, for building more storeys, for a start.

Many contractors will simply use ladders for this. But this presents serious dangers. The ladder could be positioned at a dangerous angle—too steep, risking collapse, or too shallow, risking tipping—and really needs to be scaled with the use of two hands; carrying tools becomes an added danger that can throw a worker off balance. In fact, most OHS regulations require three points of contact on all ladders; most people climbing ladders contravene this rule.

And then there are the old-fashioned temporary wooden stairs. The main problem with this is materials integrity. Wood should be constantly checked for splitting, cracking or even rot. Even weak points that are not easily visible to the human eye could be a sleeping giant for a collapse. Wood stairs also get very slippery when frozen, plus the freeze-thaw cycle makes them deteriorate even faster. 

It’s About Making the Right Choices

To increase productivity and safety on site, the industry is now turning to weatherproof aluminum temporary stairs which are designed and manufactured with CCOHS compliance in mind. But even with this solution, it is important for the contractor to know how to install them properly, for absolute safety. It is also important to know what to look for when buying. Some critical examples:

  • FIRST – make sure that stair is properly secured at the base and header. While a loosely-secured header plate might not move too much during access, adding the weight of tools or a second person will almost definitely cause the unit to slide.
  • Get the measurements right – a stair that is too short will need its angle adjusted beyond the safe pitch stated by the manufacturer. A stair that is too long will not be able to be secured at the header. Although most ceiling heights are standardized, customized work platforms and stairs are very easy to source.
  • Choosing narrow stairs – it’s tempting to scrimp. But a common sight on site today is a double-width aluminum staircase, that can increase efficiency drastically, with workers being able to pass each other, even with tools in their hands.
  • Ensure that treads are level – again, this is about choice. Many temporary stairs’ tread angles limit the installation to one angle. But there are portable stairs today that feature self-levelling treads, which automatically tilt to accommodate angles variants within a manufacturer-stated range.
  • Beware of the cold – very common in Canada and Northern USA. Make sure that treads are clear of ice, water or snow.
  • This advice is not just a collection of selling points; it is built from regulations as stated by CCOHS themselves. An extract:

Temporary Stairs, Ramps and Platforms

  • 3.9 (1) Subject to subsection 3.10(3), temporary stairs, ramps and platforms shall be designed, constructed and maintained to support any load that is likely to be imposed on them and to allow safe passage of persons and equipment on them.
  • (2) Temporary stairs shall have

(a) uniform steps in the same flight;
(b) a slope not exceeding 1.2 in 1; and
(c) a hand-rail that is not less than 900 mm and not more than 1 100 mm above the stair level on open sides including landings.

  • (3) Temporary ramps and platforms shall be

(a) securely fastened in place;
(b) braced if necessary to ensure their stability; and
(c) provided with cleats or surfaced in a manner that provides a safe footing for employees.

  • (4) A temporary ramp shall be so constructed that its slope does not exceed

(a) where the temporary ramp is installed in the stairwell of a building not exceeding two storeys in height, 1 in 1, if cross cleats are provided at regular intervals not exceeding 300 mm; and
(b) in any other case, 1 in 3.


 If you deal with multi-storey structures with your business and need advice, get in touch with SafeSmart Access, Canada’s premier supplier of portable height access products.