By Jake Pauls, BArch, CPE, HonDSc

The following four components of a one-minute, stairway flight inspection will identify the most critically important usability and safety issues associated with stairways, especially in dwelling units—the site of most stair-related injuries. For more detail on what to look for—and act on—beyond this simple inspection, see the Stairway Checklist, based on the same three basic safety criteria:

                Stair step nosing visibility

                Uniformity of step geometry

                                                 Provision of functional handrail(s)

00 to 05 seconds:          Looking down the flight, can you clearly perceive

   all of the step nosings including the landing nosing?


                                                                                                 YES or NO

05 to 15 seconds:         Crouching down on the upper landing with your

                              eye height positioned so the flight’s nosing line up

                              visually, do they all line up correctly so that no

                              nosing or nosings are out of visual alignment?

                                 YES or NO

15 to 50 seconds:         Using a measuring stick or tape (even a long enough

                              piece of cardboard that you can mark), measure the

                              three diagonal distances between the same points on each

                              of the top four nosings (including the landing nosing).

                               Are all of the diagonal distances the same—to within 3/8 inch

   (9 mm or the thickness of a standard pencil)?

                                 YES or NO

50 to 60 seconds:        Using your bare hand, grasp the handrail with your thumb

                             and fingers encircling the railing as much as possible.

                             Is there a functional railing present that you can rotate your

                             hand around—approaching the railing from the top as

                             well as the side—that you can grasp easily and securely with

                             a power grip—pulling on the railing, both side to side and

                             parallel to its length—that is both secure (for grasp) and easily

                             reached as you stand at the upper stair landing?

                                 YES or NO

        For this one-minute stairway flight inspection, was there a NO answer to one or more

        of the four questions (or sub-tests).  If so, the stairway is not reasonably safe for use.

        Correction(s) of its defects will cost less than even a single injurious fall that could be

        triggered and/or exacerbated by one or more of these factors of visibility, step geometry

        and handrail provision.

One-minute Stairway Flight Inspection

One-minute Stairway Flight Inspection  
                  Link to 8 min. video