Irish Building Guidance and stairways

04 June 2020
Irish Building Guidance and stairways

What is a Stair Nosing?

A Stair Nosing is a profile which is attached to the front edge, or nose, of steps on a stairway. They are traditionally made from a carrier of aluminium or uPVC (rigid plastic). A slip resistant material, known as a tread, is inlaid in a channel on the upper surface of the carrier. The tread serves both to highlight the step edge and to prevent slips, trips, and falls.

Stair Nosings also protect and extend the life of the flooring or floorcoverings on staircases. They prevent wear and damage to the step edge, which could lead to an unsafe stair nose. It is important to specify the most suitable Stair Nosing for each particular project. This ensures that the stairway will be safe, durable, and attractive.

Staircase Accidents

The HSE campaign “Watch your Step” outlines how, every day, there is an accident on a staircase around Ireland. The average claim for such accidents is €16,000. 20% of all slips, trips and falls occur on stairs, with 95% of these causing injury. This leads to 30,000 hospital visits and approximately 100 deaths per year, according to the UK Slip Resistance Group.

Complying with regulations is required, but just as important is the provision of the safest staircase possible. Specifying the correct Stair Nosing will not eliminate a claim, as in general it is cheaper to pay out than to go through a lengthy and expensive legal battle. However, through Best Practice, accidents can be minimised.

Best Practice

Best Practice is the key to the correct specification of Stair Nosings. By creating a staircase that reduces the potential for trips, slips and falls, many accidents can be avoided. This can be done by using a Stair Nosing profile that extends to the front of the step, and which has low slip potential. It should also have a continuous and durable contrast, and protect the staircase from damage.

On two high traffic staircases in the centre of Dublin, the Stair Nosings were changed in October 2019. This has had a significant impact on the reduction of accidents. Quantum Flooring Solutions can guarantee the Stair Nosing on a project for 10 years. This is of benefit on larger projects to client, architect, contractor, and finally the occupant.

Document K

For Stair Nosings, all safety advice relates to Document K of the Technical Guidance Document, outlined in one particular line: “Stairways, ladders and ramps shall be such as to afford safe passage for the users of a building”.

Document K sets out the makeup of a staircase. The use of a Stair Nosing should not affect the pitch line, going, or rise of a staircase. Each Stair Nosing which is used should be specified according to the flooring or floorcovering on the steps. For instance, a thicker carrier and tread would be fitted on a staircase with carpeting. This ensures that all steps are uniform, minimising the danger of trips and falls.

Document M

Document M of the Technical Guidance Document adds that all Stair Nosings should incorporate a durable, permanently contrasting continuous material for the full width of the tread. The tread material in the Stair Nosing carrier should be between 50 mm and 65 mm wide, and 30mm to 55mm from the top of the riser, and should contrast visually with the rest of the step.

The contrast between tread and step colour is measured by Light Reflectance Value (LRV). According to this scale, each colour is given an LRV, from pure black at 0 to pure white at 100. It is recommended that Stair Nosing treads should have at least 30 points LRV difference from the floorcovering on the steps. This ensures that it is clear where the step edge begins and ends.


These guidelines explain how each step nose should differ in both colour and texture from the rest of the step. This is necessary on both the tread and the riser, to help people who are blind or partially sighted appreciate the extent of the step and identify each tread.

Annex C in BS8300:2:2018 states that “Many products used for tread and floor finishes will change significantly, merely on installation. Wear, anticipated usage, potential contamination, cleaning and maintenance regimes, will all have an impact on the performance of a tread or floor finish over its lifetime.”

This is why Stair Nosings are the best option to create a compliant, safe stairway. Stair Nosings are consistent, with slip resistance and LRVs tested to ensure that they remain reliable throughout product lifespan. They also protect steps from wear and tear, prolonging the lifespan of staircases.