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Fire Stairs Safety Regulations
Fire stairs are designed primarily for emergency use. You must build all fire escape stairways to allow safe passage depending on the nature, volume, and frequency of expected usage, according to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Performance Requirement DP2. BCA DP2 also demands that there be sufficient balustrades in a building but makes exceptions if they are only used in an emergency exit or infrequently.
According to Australian building codes, even if they are only used as a path connecting levels of a structure during an emergency, fire escape stairs in Australia require some level of accessibility. This is necessary to make it easier for people to navigate the stairwell to an escape and a safe location outside the building. Many people, including the elderly, those with mobility issues, and those who want assistance during a potentially stressful event, benefit from having an appropriate railing to hold.
Recognising the edges of a stair tread is beneficial to you and everyone, including persons with impaired eyesight. Finally, an excellent contrast to the stair tread edges will aid in decreasing stair slips, trips, and falls, which is the last thing anyone wants to happen during an emergency escape. In this article, we will explore what the Fire Stairs Australian Standards entail.
The Fire Stairs Australian Standards
Three major Australian standards specify the requirements for stairway design, construction, and installation:
- AS 1428.1: Access and Mobility Design, General Access Requirements for New Buildings (2009)
- AS 1657: Design, Construction, and Installation of Fixed Platforms, Walkways, Stairways, and Ladders
- AS/NZ 4586: Non-Slip Classification of Latest Pedestrian Surface Materials
The first of the accessible measures were put into fire-isolated staircases in May 2011, adopting the Premises Standards and amendments to the Building Code of Australia. When exclusively used for emergency escape, a fire exit stairway has a particular function and does not need to adhere to every aspect of AS 1428.1's staircase regulations. However, specific considerations can help give a more inclusive, functional, and safe staircase during a building's emergency evacuation.
Access Code for BCA/Premises Standards Clause D3.3 (a)(iii), which was added in May 2011, indicates that "for a fire-isolated staircase, clause 11.1(f) and (g) of AS 1428.1 apply. This means that fire-isolated escape stairs should have legal staircase tread nosing strips with a compliance profile and a minimum luminance contrast of 30%.
In May 2013, BCA Clause D2.17 (a)(vi) was added, which specifies that handrails must be in a needed exit servicing in an area that has to be accessible and must be planned and constructed to conform with clause 12 of AS 1428.1. This means that the BCA now requires that there be at least a handrail in each flight of an escape staircase, whether it is a fire-isolated stairway or not, and have an AS 1428.1 (2009) profile.
In May 2014, BCA Clause D2.13 (a)(v), Clause D2.14(a)(ii), and Table D2.14 were added to specify minimum slip-resistance categories for stairs and landings. Regardless of the minimum standards for accessible design elements in a fire-isolated stairway or an exit staircase discussed above, there is nothing wrong with a property developer or architect going above and beyond the minimum requirements and incorporating some of the aspects of AS 1428.1 (2009) or other ideal references into a fire-isolated stairway or an exit stairway.
Risk Reduction Measures In Fire Stairways
Here are some of the top methods to maintain your fire escape stairways in good condition to ensure safe passage during an emergency incident.
- Ramping trip points
- Enhancing lighting levels
- Applying non-skid nosing strips to tread and landing edges
- Ensuring that balustrades are about 865 mm above staircase nosings and about 1 m above landings. The balustrades should have slots that do not allow a 125 mm sphere to pass through and without footholds around 150 mm and 750 mm above the floors with a potential fall height of 4 m.
- If members of the public use the fire stairs frequently, consider the criteria for tactile indications in AS 1428 Design for access and mobility.
- Cleaning dust and grime from treads and landings regularly improves slip resistance.
Fire Stairways And Their Role In Fire Safety
Allow for a quick escape
Emergency exits allow additional routes out of the building in a fire or any other disaster. When your facility has a vast number of staff or customers, a jam may arise when everyone attempts to exit the building simultaneously, using the same exit, slowing the evacuation.
People leave more rapidly when more exit routes are available, considerably reducing the danger of injury or death. Fire safety requirements differ depending on the building's occupancy; therefore, your business will need more emergency fire escape routes.
Aid in preventing the spread of fire
Because they operate as an impenetrable barrier, emergency fire stairways also aid in preventing fire spread. This would save lives and reduce the number of injuries, but it would also lessen structural damage, thereby cutting costs on costly restorations. Bottom line, servicing your fire stair exits is critical for employee safety as well as your company's.
Accessible when other exit points are blocked
Smoke, fire, or debris may obstruct the main exit during a disaster. Emergency exits give an alternate escape path, allowing people to leave even when your main doors are blocked. This is where you must make sure that there are no products, furniture, or other items obstructing the fire stairs in your building.
Do You Need Fire Exit Signs On Your Premises?
If your company or commercial premises is small, you may not require Fire Exit signage. They are not legally required if the exit from the building is obvious, such as in a small lock-up or storage facility with only one front door. On the other hand, fire exit signs become a must-have if your premises are more complex.
The number required will be determined by the layout of the building, such as the number of floors, access routes, and exits. The determining factor is how easy it is for occupants (particularly visitors or those unfamiliar with the building's layout) to make their way out of a burning building.
Work With The Best Construction Company
As you have read in this article, buildings in Australia must adhere to the Australian Facility Code, and employers must make sure that occupants are able to access and exit the building safely. This is especially important in an emergency. In comparison to other nations, fire escape stairs in Australia require a specific amount of accessibility, mainly when their primary function is to be used during an emergency for the safe exit of persons and to give access to rescue teams.
In an incident, inhabitants will likely use the Fire Exit stairs to escape the building. As a result, most fire staircases will be built to give residents enough time to safely exit the building. Suppose you want to set up a property but don't know how to follow all of the building codes and standards required by the government. In that case, your best bet is to consult a respected building and construction business and professional building inspectors to avoid legal problems later on.