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How wide do stairs need to be to not require a railing or point me in the OSHA regulation please?

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by meghanpotpie, Aug 23, 2014.

  1. meghanpotpie

    meghanpotpie Member

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    I have a design with a 3' wide by 11' tall stair unit that is against a wall. Right now the designer has no railing. I am trying to push him in the direction of railing because of safety but he says it ruins the aesthetic. Problem is that the only information I can find from OSHA is about rigging and construction fall protection and nothing about performance. Can anyone point me in the right code direction or have any idea how wide the staircase should be to not need railing? (I don't think that width exists so the OSHA code would be best). Safety is number one but I want to make sure I at least try to look at options for him.
     
  2. Amiers

    Amiers Lighting Phoenix 1 Lamp at a Time

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    I would think that the height would warrant a railing not the width. I would push for the railing on sheer height, as 11 feet is quite a ways to fall.
     
  3. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Few questions first... is this a professional venue? If so, are the actors Equity?

    You won't find an OSHA rule about it because they assume building code will pick this one up . With that, building codes do not always apply to a performance space... but your AHJ has the final call on that.
     
  4. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    As a general rule potential falls must be protected against if the fall would be over 6' in a construction site or 4' in a general work environment. Different theatres and AHJ's claim that different (or sometimes a mix of) standards apply, but I would think that either way you should have a hand railing.

    In theory, there are paperwork laden ways that you could work with your AHJ to show that this is a necessary risk. and you have made adequate arrangements to otherwise protect from a fall. That being said there are several reasons I can think of that point to just having a hand railing.
     
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  5. Euphroe

    Euphroe Member

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    If this is in-audience-view, performers can unicycle a flaming tightrope 50' above a shark tank. No safety rails on the tightrope, or harness or anything.

    Well, you'd need a pyro permit for the flames, and probably some kind of permit for the live animals.

    Performers backstage are covered by OSHA like the hands. But everything goes out the window as the performer "transitions" to audience view.

    You might have noticed that circus performers wear rudimentary safety belts when climbing ladders up to trapeze platforms, etc. The belts would usually be illegal. They are considered acceptable in that case because the artist is in costume and transitioning to performance. And when the artist reaches the top of the ladder, they even remove the belt.
     
  6. Euphroe

    Euphroe Member

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    On the other hand, there's this: http://s15.a2zinc.net/clients/USITT/USITT2013/Custom/Handout/Speaker0_Session445_1.pdf

    . . . indicating that rails etc. do apply unless the performers have been specifically trained to deal with stage-edges, etc.

    I've dealt with a lot of aerials/circus where the nature of the performance involves fall hazards with no protection. But those performers are obviously trained specifically for the risk.
     
  7. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Of course if can somehow justify the actors as an essential part of the production, you as TD, directors, other technicians, etc., would have to be protected, so harnesses and laynards or something to use the stairs.

    Generally, this is not a good idea and someone is opening themselves to significant liability. Now it may not be riskier than driving 5 or 10 mph over the posted spped limit, but its a risk.

    OSHA is not always clear but you need to protect employees. The building and fire codes are less vague but generally do apply - guards (42" with some exceptions) over 30" and hand rails on all stairs.
     
  8. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    Not true. I originally typed out a lot of specifics about jobs and assumed risk, but I feel that it may be a bit too much to have sitting out there with my name attached.

    In short, in the United States OSHA rules (or those of the state/local OSHA branch) apply to ALL employees at ALL times in ALL workplaces. That being said you can show that very specific rules cannot be followed for certain job activities (a.k.a. tightrope unicyclist not wearing a full body harness connected to an active fall restraint system while performing his/her act), but to do that you must show that you've made other arrangements to, in every way reasonable, prevent your employees from harm (a.k.a. years of experience, training with the apparatus in use, and in most non-shark tank involved acts a mat or airbag under the artist). To do this correctly involves lots of paperwork and close consultation with the AHJ. Many places just make the assumption that "The risk is just part of the job," and that may be true. However, you are still at risk until you do the paperwork to show that you've acknowledged the risk, informed the employees about the risk, and protected your employees in every way reasonable from harm due to that risk. Even then, if there is an incident and the inspector thinks you haven't gone far enough to protect you employees, or you have subjected your employees to a risk that you haven't accounted for, it can still be a huge issue.

    Long story short. Practice safe sets.
     
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  9. meghanpotpie

    meghanpotpie Member

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    Crisis has been averted. I finally had to put my foot down and state that there will be railings. This is for a show at a university and the liability and chance for injury is just too high. The designer agreed to add railings finally.
     
  10. Amiers

    Amiers Lighting Phoenix 1 Lamp at a Time

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    Congrats.
     
  11. 2mojo2

    2mojo2 Active Member

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    Good for you! I have used a stretched wire rope a few times. It does not meet the full specs for a guardrail, of course, but it is unobtrusive and does provide actors with something to grab in the event of a stumble.
     

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