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Thread: open risers

  1. #1
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    Default open risers

    Are open risers wrong because;

    1. They are a trip hazard.

    2. Child safety (they can crawl through and fall)

    3. both 1 and 2 above

    If the answer is #2, at what height do you begin to judge open risers as a true hazard? Is two steps with open risers to a wooden front stoop a hazard? No? At what point do you consider it a hazard?

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  2. #2
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dirks Jr View Post
    Are open risers wrong because;

    1. They are a trip hazard.

    2. Child safety (they can crawl through and fall)

    3. both 1 and 2 above

    If the answer is #2, at what height do you begin to judge open risers as a true hazard? Is two steps with open risers to a wooden front stoop a hazard? No? At what point do you consider it a hazard?
    A child can get part weigh thru and get hung up in them. It is not just for falling thru but 30 inches above ground is the norm. Any higher than that you need railings but if you have any balusters on any stair they should be properly spaced for safety.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: open risers

    Open risers are allowed but must have a bar or other suitable guard in the open space reducing the open space such that a 4" sphere cannot pass through.

    Without that guard in that open riser, yes, that is an entrapment hazard for small children.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Open risers are allowed but must have a bar or other suitable guard in the open space reducing the open space such that a 4" sphere cannot pass through.

    Without that guard in that open riser, yes, that is an entrapment hazard for small children.
    Makes me wonder how we survived as kids ourselves.
    2-prong wiring, leaky chimneys, leaky woodstoves, lousy brakes on cars with no seatbelts, etc.
    We would seek out the entrapment hazards, like the time I got trapped in a dry well with a boulder rolled onto the rotten old wooden lid.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    We would seek out the entrapment hazards,

    Who do you think found all the entrapment hazards we now protect ourselves from?

    We survived, and no one got sued for OUR mistakes, but, once colleges started turning out lawyers, they had to find something to do, so, they encouraged some people to sue other people for their own ignorance and stupidity, ... it has been downhill ever since.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  6. #6
    Mark Mitchell's Avatar
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    Default Re: open risers

    Both in Scotland and New Zealand, a 100mm sphere must not be able to pass through an open riser. The quickest way I have found to overcome this has been to fix a piece of timber on the underside of the riser thus reducing the opening.

    An open riser can present a tripping hazard not just for able bodied persons but also for disabled persons which could mean visually impaired.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: open risers

    Since we're in this room talking, obviously we survived. I'm sure there are some who did not survive. They won't be here to attest to that.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: open risers

    From a recent inspection - if I had just bit more nerve, I would also have asked this owner to put her child's neck into the the open riser for a "how to" illustration.

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dirks Jr View Post
    Since we're in this room talking, obviously we survived. I'm sure there are some who did not survive. They won't be here to attest to that.
    Good point John.
    Of course we all know that the comments made about Darwin awards, etc. are tough-in-cheek.
    As I tell my clients about code changes, virtually all code changes over the years are made because someone died or got hurt and the codes get changed to try and prevent those occurrences in the future.

    Does that mean that society is becoming less fit to survive due to the weakening of the gene pool?
    As I look around, maybe, but then I see that you just can't fix stupid and these people continue to find ways to eliminate themselves from the genetic stock.
    Sometimes it is after producing off spring though.

    Jim Luttrall
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  10. #10
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    Cool Re: open risers

    What about "floating" risers you see in some of the architectural designs and that you also see in some of the curving stairs used in small spaces? These are completely open but appear to be within building standards. I am not a code person but there just appears to be a lot of lead way in this area.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Weaver View Post
    What about "floating" risers you see in some of the architectural designs and that you also see in some of the curving stairs used in small spaces? These are completely open but appear to be within building standards. I am not a code person but there just appears to be a lot of lead way in this area.

    Chuck,

    When you look around at things like that, it is because architects and designers are more interested in "looks" than in safety, good construction practices, etc., and the codes take a while to change and catch up to their stupidity.

    "Open rises" of any type are no different than "openings in" the stairway guard, except that the opening between risers is required to not exceed 4" whereas (don't tell builders this, if they don't know it they cannot take advantage of doing it cheaper and less safe) openings in stairway guards are allowed to be 4-3/8" ... don't ask me why, if someone could get stuck or injured in 4" they would not get stuck or injured in 4-3/8" as it seems illogical, but, then again, the 4-3/8" was backed by builders and stair building companies because (yep, I read some commentary somewhere which gave that reason) ... it is cheaper and easier to build to that standard. Now that makes a lot of sense for a code to wimp out because it is cheaper and easier - instead of requiring three normal sized balusters to be installed at each tread which is what is required to meet the 4" opening size limitation, the 4-3/8 opening allowed installing two normal sized balusters to meet code. So the reasoning was ... to save the installation of one baluster per tread. Like I said, because it was cheaper and easier.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  12. #12
    Chuck Weaver's Avatar
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    Default Re: open risers

    Thanks, Jerry. You are right I know. It does take laws and minimum standards to protect us from our own stupidity and, unfortunately, it does take time to realize where corners are being cut and loop holes taken advantage of in the name of material and time cost savings. Safety, or the lack of it, are definitely part of our responsible reporting.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: open risers

    Todays inspection

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Todays inspection
    Advice to the new owner-Flip it on its side and call it a jungle gym for the kids.
    Then build a safe deck for the adults.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: open risers

    I thought open risers are acceptable on steps outside the home, on porches etc.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by daniel nantell View Post
    I thought open risers are acceptable on steps outside the home, on porches etc.

    Nothing in the code excepts them from those requirements, after all, don't those stairway guards have the same spacing requirements? (Answer: Yes, they do.)

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: open risers

    When I was in the trenches and doing a summary on a home that was heated by a floor furnace I would point out the hazard of a hot grill over the floor furnace. When Mom asked, "will Junior burn his feet if he steps on it?" My reply was invariably, "Yes, but only once." I'll never forget the waffle burns on my foot when I spent the night at a friend's house and got up in the middle of a very cold night to widdle and stepped on a really hot grate cover. Seem we never forget stuff like that?

    BTW, I don't recall ever finding safety rails when we spent entire summers climbing every tree within sight as kids?

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  18. #18
    Chuck Weaver's Avatar
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    Default Re: open risers

    You are right Jerry. Man what fun it was. We had this huge live oak with branches way to big for us to reach around all the way up the tree. Well, at least that's the way I remember it. And I had the broken bones and the scares to prove I was there. But it did not deminish the fun at the time. Now it only hurts when rains coming.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: open risers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry McCarthy View Post
    BTW, I don't recall ever finding safety rails when we spent entire summers climbing every tree within sight as kids?

    Not on our trees either, but, if there were, my younger brother probably would not have fallen and broken his collar bone either.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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