The Ultimate Guide to Metal Staircases, Ladders & Walkways for Commercial and Industrial Projects

Metal staircases, ladders, and walkways are essential components in commercial and industrial projects. Whether you’re constructing a multi-story office building or an expansive manufacturing facility, these structures provide safe and efficient access to elevated areas. In this comprehensive guide, we will explain the benefits, design considerations, installation process, and maintenance tips for metal staircases, ladders, and walkways in commercial and industrial settings. We’re here to help you gain a thorough understanding of how to choose and implement these crucial elements in your next project. 

Enhancing Accessibility and Safety in Commercial and Industrial Spaces

The need for efficient and safe access to elevated areas is paramount. Stairs were found to be the leading cause of low-height falls, according to research for the Health and Safety Executive. Metal staircases, ladders, and walkways must enable smooth and secure movement between different floor levels. Whether it’s accessing upper floors in office buildings, maintaining equipment on mezzanine levels, or navigating across vast factory floors, these essential structures play a crucial role in maintaining productivity and ensuring worker safety.  

Let’s dive deeper into the key considerations when designing, installing, and maintaining metal structures for your commercial or industrial projects. 

Planning for Space Constraints

One of the primary concerns when designing metal structures is what constraints the space has. Depending on the available area, you must find the most suitable way to optimise accessibility without compromising on other aspects of your business operation. Careful analysis of floor plans, traffic flow patterns, and usage requirements will help determine the appropriate size, shape, and orientation of the staircases, ladders, and walkways. 

Compliance with Building Codes and Standards

Ensuring the safety of your building is no easy task. Whether it’s making sure your metal staircases meet fire safety regulations to serve as safe escape routes in case of emergencies. Or ensuring enough headroom on flights of stairs, you need a comprehensive understanding of what makes a staircase safe. UK safety regulations and building codes, including Document K, establish the design criteria for metal staircases, ladders, and walkways. Complying with these standards is essential to safeguard the well-being of occupants and avoid potential fines. Document K, as a part of the UK Building Regulations, outlines precise guidelines for structural integrity, dimensions, handrails, balustrades, tread surfaces, and load-bearing capabilities. Collaborating with an experienced team of architects, engineers and fabricators, such as Shelley Engineering, is crucial to guarantee full compliance with these regulations. 

Staircases should be designed to support the anticipated load, including users’ weight and any potential dynamic loads. The loadings are typically specified in terms of uniformly distributed loads (UDL) and point loads. For residential buildings, staircases are generally designed to accommodate a UDL of 1.5 kN per square meter. This includes the weight of users and any potential furniture or other loads. In non-residential or public buildings, such as offices or commercial spaces, the UDL may be higher, typically around 3.0 kN per square meter, considering heavier usage. 

The height of each riser, also known as the “rise,” should generally fall within the range of 150mm to 220mm. However, the maximum allowable rise is typically limited to 220mm, while the minimum is typically set at 150mm. The reason for this range is to provide a consistent and comfortable ascent or descent for stair users. 

The depth of each tread, also known as the “going,” should typically be a minimum of 220mm. It’s important to note that the going is typically measured horizontally from the front edge of one tread to the front edge of the next tread. The regulations may specify a preferred or typical going, but the key factor is ensuring that it is consistent for the entire staircase and that there is no excessive variation in the going within a flight of stairs. 

Choosing the Right Material 

Metal staircases offer numerous advantages over using alternative materials. They are durable, resistant to environmental factors, and can be customised to fit specific project requirements. They also provide cost-effective solutions while adhering to strict building regulations. Metal stairs, ladders, and walkways are available in various materials, including steel, aluminium, stainless steel and even brass. Each material has unique characteristics that make it suitable for different project requirements. Steel offers exceptional strength and durability, making it ideal for heavy-duty industrial environments. Aluminium is lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and commonly used in commercial settings. Stainless steel provides excellent resistance to corrosion, moisture, and harsh chemicals, making it an excellent choice for corrosive environments. Selecting the right material depends on factors such as load capacity, anticipated usage, aesthetics, and budgetary considerations. 

Installing Your Metal Staircases, Ladders, and Walkways 
Site Preparation and Measurements 

Before commencing any installation work, accurate measurements of the intended area must be taken. Site inspection helps identify potential challenges and allows for adjustments to ensure a proper fit. It is essential to consider existing infrastructure, equipment placement, and clearances required for safe movement. The devil is in the details, and it’s crucial to get this right the first time to avoid future headaches. 

Structural Fabrication and Assembly 

The next step involves fabricating the metal components according to the design specifications. Skilled fabricators use advanced machinery and techniques to cut, shape, and weld the metal parts precisely. The fabricated components are then assembled to create the complete staircase, ladder, or walkway system. Thorough quality control checks are conducted at every stage to ensure structural integrity. 

Surface Finishing and Protective Coatings 

Ensuring a strong surface finish and protective coating is crucial for enhancing the durability and aesthetics of metal structures. This involves processes like sandblasting, priming, powder coating, and painting to protect against corrosion and wear. The selection of surface finishes depends on a wide range of factors such as environmental conditions, desired appearance, and project requirements. Regular maintenance and inspections should be performed to address any damages or signs of degradation promptly. 

Maintaining Your Metal Staircase 

Regular inspections help identify potential issues early on and prevent more significant problems down the line. Inspect all components, including handrails, guardrails, tread surfaces, and connections, for signs of damage, rust, or loose parts. Clean the metal surfaces regularly using appropriate cleaning agents and techniques to remove dirt, grime, and other contaminants that can contribute to corrosion. 
Promptly repair any damages, such as dents, scratches, or loose fasteners, to maintain the structural integrity of the metal structures. Additionally, apply protective coatings or paints to prevent rust formation. Regularly monitor high-risk areas prone to moisture or chemical exposure and take proactive measures to mitigate any potential corrosion. 

Maximising the Effectiveness of Metal Staircases 
Using Anti-Slip Surfaces and Treads 

To prevent slips and falls, incorporate anti-slip surfaces or treads on staircases and walkways. These  
specialised surfaces offer enhanced traction, even in wet or oily conditions. By investing in anti-slip solutions, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure worker safety. 

Incorporating Handrails and Guardrails 

Balustrades, handrails and guardrails are vital safety features that provide stability, support, and fall protection. Ensure these elements meet all regulatory requirements in terms of height, spacing, and structural integrity. Well-designed handrails and guardrails add an extra layer of safety to your metal structures and contribute to a more secure working environment. When you consider that one third of 3-day+ absences in the food and drink industry alone are caused by falls on stairs, this critical safety element should not be underestimated in terms of its importance. 

Staircase Nosings 

Nosings on stairs serve several important purposes, regardless of whether the staircase is made of timber or metal. These nosings are the edge of the stair tread that overhangs the riser, providing a slightly rounded or bevelled edge. Nosings are designed to enhance safety by reducing the risk of slips, trips, and falls on stairs. The rounded or beveled edge creates a smooth transition between the tread and the riser, reducing the likelihood of tripping, especially in low-light conditions. 

In the UK, the design and construction of stairs, including the use of nosings, are subject to various industry standards and guidelines. The primary standard related to stairs in the UK is BS 5395-1:2010, which provides recommendations for the design and construction of stairs, including nosings. The key aspects covered by this standard include dimensions, safety, materials, and construction methods for stairs in various types of buildings. 

Staircases can only have a maximum of 13 treads before a landing is needed, and nosings prove useful in accommodating space-saving designs such as winders. Winders are stairs that change direction as they rise and allow you to transition through 90 degrees where there’s no space for a landing. The choice of materials and colours may differ depending on the design and requirements of the staircase, but the fundamental purposes remain the same. Metal staircases can benefit from nosings to enhance safety, durability, and aesthetics. 

Customise Your Staircase to meet specific needs 

Metal structures can be customised to meet specific project and commercial needs. Consider incorporating additional features such as landing platforms, rest areas, or integrated equipment racks to enhance functionality. If your stairs are in a public-facing area, you might want to consider installing a glass balustrade to adorn your new metal staircase and complement the existing architecture of your offices. Whether you are going for a striking, sophisticated look or something more functional, by tailoring your metal structures to fit your business’s unique requirements, you can optimise traffic efficiency and improve the workflow within your commercial or industrial space. 

Collaborating with Experts in Metal Fabrication and Installation 

Stairs are a specialist area and collaboration with professionals in metal fabrication and installation is the best way to ensure seamless execution and exceptional results for your projects. Always look to engage a partner with a strong track record of staircase fabrication who can point you to case studies of similar projects.

Experienced metal fabricators like Shelley Engineering possess the necessary expertise and regulatory and technical know-how to tackle complex designs and deliver high-quality products. We stay updated with industry trends, advancements in materials, and changes in building codes to ensure our client projects are always compliant. Leveraging our knowledge and expertise allows you to achieve the best outcomes for your project. 
Working with staircase experts will also help to ensure timely project delivery. Our seasoned fabricators and installation team have streamlined processes in place to manage schedules efficiently, coordinate with other contractors, and overcome unexpected challenges swiftly. Their commitment to meeting deadlines reduces downtime and allows your operations to resume promptly. 

Make Your Commercial and Industrial Spaces Safe and Accessible 

Metal staircases, ladders, and walkways are crucial components of any commercial or industrial project. By following the design considerations outlined in this guide, you can optimise your premises for enhanced accessibility, safety, and productivity. Additionally, proper installation, regular maintenance, and bespoke variations to design will contribute to the longevity and efficiency of your metal structures. 

Collaborating with seasoned experts in metal fabrication and installation will ensure that your projects are executed flawlessly and that they adhere to industry standards and building codes. Choosing a reliable partner who brings extensive experience and expertise to the table, such as Shelley Engineering, means you can enjoy a hassle-free process and exceptional results from our services. With careful planning, precise execution, and ongoing maintenance, our team of professionals pays attention to the details that will support your operations while prioritising worker safety, ease of access and comfort. 

For more information about how metal staircases, ladders, and walkways can enhance your projects, reach out to our team of experts today! We’re here to help take your ideas for your metal staircase project, from concept to completion. 

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