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Australian Standard For Stairs – What’s The Maximum Step Height 2024

A Guide to AS 1657 Balustrade for Australian Construction Workers

Stairs are a ubiquitous feature in construction, providing access to different levels on building sites. However, falls from stairs are a significant safety concern. The Australian Standard AS 1657: Fixed Ladders, Platforms and Stairs plays a critical role in mitigating these risks by outlining design, construction, and installation requirements for safe and compliant stairs. This guide unpacks key considerations for Australian construction workers regarding AS 1657 and stairs.

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Maximum Step Height Of Stairs Australia

The maximum step height for stairs in Australia according to AS 1657 is 255 millimeters.


Understanding Your Obligations: Scope of AS 1657

AS 1657 applies to all fixed stairs used for access and egress in workplaces, encompassing construction sites, factories, and commercial buildings. This includes:

  • Straight stairs: The most common type, with a continuous run of treads and risers.
  • L-shaped stairs: Feature a turn at a 90-degree angle with a landing.
  • U-shaped stairs: Have two turns at 180 degrees with a landing in between.
  • Spiral stairs: Less common in construction but may be encountered.
as1657 stair case

Stairway Design Essentials: Dimensions and Strength

AS 1657 prescribes specific dimensions and strength requirements for stairs to ensure user safety and stability. Here are some crucial aspects for construction workers to be aware of:

  • Tread Depth (Going): The minimum depth of a tread (horizontal part you step on) is 240mm. This allows for a comfortable and secure step.
  • Riser Height: The vertical distance between the top of one tread and the next must be between 130mm and 255mm. Consistent riser heights are essential for a predictable walking rhythm.
  • Going-Riser Relationship: The product of the tread depth (in millimeters) and the riser height (in millimeters) should fall within a specific range (45,000 to 48,000). This ensures a comfortable walking slope.
  • Number of Risers per Flight: A single flight of stairs shouldn’t have fewer than two risers or more than 18 risers without a landing of at least 750mm x 750mm. Landings provide rest areas and break up long flights.
  • Stair Width: Stairs must be wide enough for comfortable passage. The minimum width for a single person is 900mm, but wider stairs may be required depending on expected traffic flow.
  • Live Loading and Point Loads: Stairs need to be designed to withstand the weight of users and potential loads. AS 1657 specifies minimum live loading (weight per square meter) and point loads (concentrated weight) for stairs.

Safety First: Fall Protection with Balustrades

Preventing falls is paramount. AS 1657 mandates balustrades for all open sides of stairs with a fall height exceeding 500mm. Balustrades comprise handrails, top rails, and balusters (vertical bars). Construction workers should ensure balustrades adhere to these specifications:

  • Balustrade Height: A minimum height of 900mm from the walking surface to the top rail is required. This provides adequate support for most people.
  • Strength and Loading: Balustrades must be strong enough to withstand a horizontal load of 450N applied anywhere on the top rail, simulating someone leaning for balance.
  • Gaps Between Balusters: The gaps between balusters should not exceed 100mm to prevent a child’s head from getting trapped.
  • Handrails: A continuous handrail with a diameter of 32mm to 45mm for ease of gripping should run along the top of the balustrade. The handrail height should be between 900mm and 1000mm for optimal user comfort.
  • Location and Extensions: Balustrades need to be positioned close to the walking surface and extend horizontally at least 300mm beyond the top and bottom steps for support when entering and exiting.

Additional Considerations for Safe Stair Construction

Beyond the core requirements, construction workers should consider these additional factors:

  • Materials: Stairs can be constructed from various materials like timber, steel, or concrete, but the chosen material must meet the strength and stability requirements outlined in AS 1656.
  • Slip Resistance: Treads should have a slip-resistant surface to prevent falls, especially on wet or dusty construction sites.
  • Headroom: Adequate headroom above the walking surface is crucial to avoid head injuries. The minimum headroom specified in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) should be followed.
  • Visibility: Ensure good lighting on stairs, particularly at the top and bottom steps, to improve visibility and prevent falls in low-light conditions.

    Signage: For single steps or changes in level where a balustrade is not provided, clear signage and tactile ground surface indicators are essential to warn visually impaired individuals of potential hazards.

    Clearance: Maintain sufficient fall clearance beneath the balustrade. This prevents someone from falling through the gap between the balustrade and the walking surface below.

    Usability for People with Disabilities: Consider the needs of people with disabilities. Wider handrails might be required for those with a weaker grip.

    Inspections and Maintenance: Regular inspections of stairs are vital for safety. Look for damage, loose components, or wear and tear on treads, risers, and balustrades. Prompt repairs or replacements are crucial to maintain stair integrity.

    Project Specifications and Regulations: Remember, AS 1657 is a minimum requirement. Project specifications or the Building Code of Australia (BCA) might have stricter guidelines for stair dimensions, loading capacities, or handrail configurations. Always prioritize the most stringent requirements and consult with engineers or architects for clarification.

    Resources for Further Learning:

    • Standards Australia: provides access to the full text of AS 1657 for purchase.
    • Safe Work Australia: offers valuable resources on workplace safety, including information on stairs and fall prevention.
    • Your local building authority website will have details on relevant regulations and enforcement procedures.

    By understanding and adhering to the guidelines outlined in AS 1657, Australian construction workers can play a vital role in creating safe and compliant stairs for themselves and others on building sites. These stairs will facilitate efficient access while minimizing the risk of falls and promoting a safer work environment for everyone. Remember, safety is not a suggestion; it’s a necessity. Taking the time to ensure stairs comply with AS 1657 is a worthwhile investment in preventing accidents and protecting lives.

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