For anyone working in an industrial or warehouse envi- ronment, where cost, space, efficient material handling and worker safety are vital, the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA)-based stairs are often preferred
over IBC stairs due to their smaller footprint, better fit, and
lower cost. RMI-compliant OSHA-based stairs permit open
risers, integration of the handrail as the top of the guard, and
a greater stair pitch.
The controversy starts, however, when more costly
International Building Code (IBC) stairs with their larger footprint, closed risers, and independent handrails with extensions are required for these warehouse environments by the
authority having jurisdiction (e.g. the local municipal building
While municipal building code planning departments
may not realize it, the Rack Manufacturers Institute (
RMI)-compliant, OSHA-based stairs have been included in IBC
code since 2009 (Section 2208), offering safe, cost-effective,
space-efficient access to the elevated work surfaces in pick
modules and rack-supported platforms.
IBC stairs are totally appropriate for facilities allowing pub-
lic access in order to protect a wide range of people from the
physically-capable to the physically challenged. However,
they’re more burdensome than RMI-compliant stairs in a
warehouse or industrial setting restricted to trained
employees needing to cost-effectively maximize
storage space, aisle access, and material handling
Pick modules combine dynamic rack systems with
conveyors or other flow components to cost-effectively enhance productivity for broken pallet or
carton order-filling operations. When designed as a
multi-level rack-supported system, they allow dense
product storage, reduced material handling, and the
ability to fulfill multiple SKU customer shipments in
a timely, accurate manner.
Similarly, elevated rack-supported platforms can
create additional space for in-plant offices, archive/
record storage, small parts storage, or pick and sort
operations above a work or storage area.
IBC stairs, what we’re really talking about when it
comes time to pick modules or rack-supported platforms is
RMI-compliant vs. IBC-compliant stairs. RMI-compliant stairs
are IBC-compliant stairs provided that access to the elevated
work surface of a module or platform is limited to trained
employees who are appropriately dressed and physically able
to work in an industrial plant or warehouse.
The first printing of the IBC was the 2000 edition, with new
editions following a 3-year cycle including the current 2015
edition. The IBC’s Chapter 22 on the design of industrial steel
storage racks references the RMI’s Specification for the Design,
Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks.
The 2008 edition of the ANSI-approved RMI Specification
was expanded to include a section on pick modules and
rack-supported platforms (Section 8. 4). Sub-Section 8. 4. 4
describes the minimum requirements for an RMI-compliant
straight stair, which, for the most part, follow the guidelines
set forth by OSHA for a straight stair.
The RMI Specification is specifically written around industrial steel storage racks installed and used in a warehouse or
industrial environment where access to the elevated floors
within a pick module or rack-supported platform is restricted
to employees properly trained, physically capable, and have
the appropriate attire for the intended working environment.
OSHA-Based or IBC Stairs:
Clearing Up a Warehouse