Protected Stairway

Last updated: September 9, 2019

What Does Protected Stairway Mean?

Protected stairways include exit routes as directed by OSHA that provide safe passages for employees to make their way out of a building in the event of a fire.

Safeopedia Explains Protected Stairway

In keeping with OSHA's guidelines for safe exit routes from within the working space to beyond its confines, protected stairways should be unobstructed passages that allow workers to make a speedy exit when required. It must be noted that exit or escape routes can either be protected or unprotected. This mainly applies to fire sterility to a certain degree, which is required of protected stairways according to building regulations in many countries.

In the UK, building codes and norms pertaining to escape or exit routes contained in the Approved Document B of Building Regulations strictly define protected stairways as those leading to a final exit and opening out into a place of safety. This kind of stairway includes an exit passageway between the foot of the stairs and the ultimate exit that leads to an area of safety. Furthermore, this stairway should be constructed and enclosed using fire-retardant construction materials. It is the enclosed fire-retardant space around the stairway that gives its "protected" status and makes it integral to workplace safety and fire safety.

Protected stairways must also act as a buffer against flames, smoke, and gases as workers make their way out of a building during a fire. OSHA requires the construction of at least two exit routes for employees within the work space. These exit routes include protected stairways that must directly open to the outside, free of obstructions. Signage should adequately indicate these exit ways or protected stairways, and these exit routes should be free of flammable materials such as furnishings, explosives, and decorations.


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