Safety talk - Stairs and walkways

Stairs and walkways in any business can cause injury accidents. These passageways don’t typically receive the maintenance they need, since they are considered access ways and not production areas. Here are some safety tips to help eliminate exposures at your company.

  • Always keep one hand free to use the handrail, both going up and down the stairs.
  • Keep all stairs and walkways clear of debris and potentially slippery substances, such as ice, snow, water, oil or grease.
  • Keep passageways free of tools, equipment, and other materials. Practice good housekeeping in these nonproduction areas.
  • When stairs and walkways are provided, use them. Don’t risk your safety to save a few steps or a few seconds. Hopping off loading docks or jumping over piping saves no time or money if you’re injured and cannot work.
  • Resecure or replace loose handrails. Don’t assume someone else will repair or report them. Immediately report any problem to your supervisor or take time to fix it yourself.
  • Secure electrical cords and hoses so they don’t lie across walkways. If electrical cords must be laid across walkways, use approved cord covers whenever possible.
  • Avoid carrying materials that obstruct your vision. Use mechanical aids, such as dollies, to transport bulky or heavy loads.
  • Be careful when walking on asphalt and oiled surfaces, because rainwater may produce an oil sheen and create slippery walking conditions.

Unlike some exposures, stair hazards or slippery walkways can appear overnight. Take action to remedy the problem when you see it.

What ideas do you have to improve safety?


  • Where there is an elevation change in a walkway, highlight the change so it’s plainly visible. Distinguishing the change alerts anyone unfamiliar with the walkway to the hazard.
  • Shop or warehouse mezzanines should be equipped with standard railings to protect open sides. Railings should have top rails with a height of 42 inches as well as mid-rails, posts, and toe boards. Your company may have a small office located within a larger building with its roof area used for storing materials. Review the space’s access and guarding. Make sure it has a full stairway or ladder access and is equipped with perimeter railings. It’s also wise to have an engineer calculate the maximum load the roof area can handle.
  • Standard handrails must be provided for stairs with four or more steps. Handrails should be 30 to 34 inches from the top of the stair tread, measured in line with the face of the riser.
  • If electrical cords must be laid across walkways, provide approved cord covers whenever possible. Consider setting up a caution sign or flagging to alert individuals to cords or hoses in their path until a permanent “approved” solution can be put into place.
  • Routinely inspect all walkways and stairs for hazards.
  • Encourage employees to report safety hazards. Immediately address a safety hazard brought to your attention.