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  1. #1

    Default Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    I'm working as a forensic consultant on a trip/fall/injury case involving a single 6-inch step-down having a horizontal handrail along the side of its 8-foot-long platform. This is part of an entrance into a garage from street level exterior. The commercial building in question was built in 1973. Can anyone tell me where to find copies of codes that might have been in effect at that time? (Nothing about the building appears to have been more recently modified that would have triggered compliance with newer codes in this area.)

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    Stan Audette, BSEE, ACI

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    Stan,

    For that type of work you will need the exact code adopted at the AHJ where the incident happened - go to the building department in that area and talk with them, they probably even have a copy of the code .... stuffed back in the cobwebs where the archives are kept.

    You can use, and base your findings on, the national standard code typically used in your general area at that time, but you do not want "typically" to come up, you want "this is the code which was applicable at the time the building was constructed and there is no record of any alterations having been made'.

    But don't let on why you are looking for that old code, just that you are doing 'code research' for your records.

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

  3. #3

    Default Re: Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Stan,

    For that type of work you will need the exact code adopted at the AHJ where the incident happened - go to the building department in that area and talk with them, they probably even have a copy of the code .... stuffed back in the cobwebs where the archives are kept.

    You can use, and base your findings on, the national standard code typically used in your general area at that time, but you do not want "typically" to come up, you want "this is the code which was applicable at the time the building was constructed and there is no record of any alterations having been made'.

    But don't let on why you are looking for that old code, just that you are doing 'code research' for your records.
    Thanks for the good advice. I plan to follow it.

    Stan Audette, BSEE, ACI

  4. #4
    Alain Charron's Avatar
    Alain Charron Guest

    Default Re: Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Audette View Post
    Thanks for the good advice. I plan to follow it.
    I am a registered home inspector but also a professional engineer. I have now been hired by lawyers in at least 4 cases involving trip and fall accidents that resulted in injury. In each one of those cases, I did not make or attempt to make reference to the code that was in effect at the time it was built. There were no official building codes in 1900.... a 100 year old building that is not properly maintained and is accessible to the public must be safe to use... In my opinion, hiding behind the fact the building was built before the current codes took effect is not a valid excuse (actually, it will be up to the lawyer who hired you to debate that). Of course, if you can find that the code in effect in 1973 was not respected, more meat for you in your report... I know that here, in Ontario (Canada), the older building codes were very thin and didn't go in so many details as the current ones. I found very little information to help my research and to write my reports in those cases. You should also keep in mind that there is very little chance that the case will ever make it to court... it will likely be settled out of court. I would personally make reference to the current code and explain the facts.

    If you are interested, send me a private request and I'll send you copies of those reports... after editing the names of the people involved.


  5. #5

    Default Re: Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alain Charron View Post
    I am a registered home inspector but also a professional engineer. I have now been hired by lawyers in at least 4 cases involving trip and fall accidents that resulted in injury. In each one of those cases, I did not make or attempt to make reference to the code that was in effect at the time it was built. There were no official building codes in 1900.... a 100 year old building that is not properly maintained and is accessible to the public must be safe to use... In my opinion, hiding behind the fact the building was built before the current codes took effect is not a valid excuse (actually, it will be up to the lawyer who hired you to debate that). Of course, if you can find that the code in effect in 1973 was not respected, more meat for you in your report... I know that here, in Ontario (Canada), the older building codes were very thin and didn't go in so many details as the current ones. I found very little information to help my research and to write my reports in those cases. You should also keep in mind that there is very little chance that the case will ever make it to court... it will likely be settled out of court. I would personally make reference to the current code and explain the facts.

    If you are interested, send me a private request and I'll send you copies of those reports... after editing the names of the people involved.
    Thank you for your thoughtful and helpful response. I feel I must be as familiar as possible with codes in effect at the time of that construction because I expect those facts to be part of the defense's arguments. (Have you ever felt "blind-sided" by an opposing attorney's research and cross examination? I have ... and it made me quite uncomfortable.)

    Stan Audette, BSEE, ACI

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alain Charron View Post
    I am a registered home inspector but also a professional engineer. I have now been hired by lawyers in at least 4 cases involving trip and fall accidents that resulted in injury. In each one of those cases, I did not make or attempt to make reference to the code that was in effect at the time it was built. There were no official building codes in 1900.... a 100 year old building that is not properly maintained and is accessible to the public must be safe to use... In my opinion, hiding behind the fact the building was built before the current codes took effect is not a valid excuse (actually, it will be up to the lawyer who hired you to debate that). Of course, if you can find that the code in effect in 1973 was not respected, more meat for you in your report... I know that here, in Ontario (Canada), the older building codes were very thin and didn't go in so many details as the current ones. I found very little information to help my research and to write my reports in those cases. You should also keep in mind that there is very little chance that the case will ever make it to court... it will likely be settled out of court. I would personally make reference to the current code and explain the facts.

    If you are interested, send me a private request and I'll send you copies of those reports... after editing the names of the people involved.
    Not bad advice for a house built pre-codes, but if there was a code in effect and the code was not met, the other side as very little stable standing room, the rest is slippery slope stuff.

    If the stair met the adopted code at the time, then the same points are you would argue can still be argued ... and argued ... and argued ... and argued - but if non-compliant with the code at the time of construction - no argument, state the "facts".

    You are correct that it will likely not go to trial, but it may, and, even if it does not go to trial, a larger check is written for non-compliant stairs than for compliant stairs or where there was no code in effect for that 100 year old house.

    One can have an accident and fall down a stair which is totally compliant with the most current code ... the arguments are now 'how much was the stairs a contributing factor' and 'how much were the actions of the person a contributing factor' - it may be 100% the person, or 50%-50%, are any other percentage the judge decides or the two parties agree to when they settle out of court.

    Was the person: old, frail, distracted, wearing loose fitting shoes, had long fingernails and could not properly grasp the handrail, long hair which got caught in their hand, what (if anything) was on the stairs (carpet, rug, toys, etc.) ... basically *everything* is a 'contributing factor', the percentage is what is debated and argued before the judge or agreed to out of court.

    I have not yet found even *one* stair which has met the code at the time in *every* detail and aspect ... "close, but no cigar" ...

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

  7. #7
    Alain Charron's Avatar
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    Default Re: Commercial Stair Codes/Handrails, etc., circa 1973?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Audette View Post
    Thank you for your thoughtful and helpful response. I feel I must be as familiar as possible with codes in effect at the time of that construction because I expect those facts to be part of the defense's arguments. (Have you ever felt "blind-sided" by an opposing attorney's research and cross examination? I have ... and it made me quite uncomfortable.)
    Never been blind sided yet... I don't know if I have just been lucky or well prepared. Legal system is also different in Canada than where most of the members on this forum are from (the States)... and even within our country, laws are different between each province. For instance, I live in the province of Quebec but do 95% of my inspections across the river in Ontario. In Ontario, to win a case of hidden defects against the previous owner, you must prove that he knew and did not disclose it knowingly. In Quebec, you don't need to prove that he knew anything... the previous owner is responsible for any hidden defects in the house he sells unless he specifically states that the house is sold with no legal warranty (that's what the banks are doing when re-selling foreclosures).


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