FAQs on new OSHA Fall Protection Regulations: Vol. 10 – Stair Design Changes

This photo shows a set of fixed stairs with compliant hand rail and stair rail — now required by OSHA 1910

In this installment of our blog series, we continue to focus on more details that changed with the new OSHA regulations – specifically design changes that affect stairs.

OSHA 1910.29 says that for any stairs installed after January 17, 2017, a handrail that measures 30-38 inches is required, as well as a 42-inch stair rail. The rationale for this additional requirement is that the handrail is provided to guide an individual up or down the stair, while the stair rail—effectively guardrail—is provided for fall protection.

In addition, some of the other changes for stair design include:

Item Old Rule New Rule
Overhead clearance 84 inches 80 inches
Handrail height 30-34 inches 30-38 inches
Guardrail N/A 42 inches


It’s important to make note of these new rules related to stair design so that they can be incorporated into any new stairs that are being added to your facilities. See Figures D-12 and D-13 referenced in OSHA 1910.29 (f) for more information and visual diagrams of the requirements.

According to OSHA 1910.29 (f)(1)(ii)(A), retrofit of existing stairs is not required, as long as the height of stair rail systems is not less than 30 inches from the leading edge of the stair tread to the top surface of the top rail.

To understand the rationale or research related to these changes, you can find information in the commentary. Trust me when I say they went into a lot of detail.

Please subscribe or check back next Wednesday morning for the next installment in this blog series. And, if you have your own specific questions, please comment below.


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