field inspections of stairs and railing systems

When project engineers are developing the metals portion of proposals, do they include the cost of providing special inspections on the welding of stairs and railing systems? Do structural steel inspectors automatically perform field inspections on the project welds related to the stairs and railing systems? Does the International Building Code (IBC) require special inspections on the welding associated with stairs and railing systems?

Once upon a time, the IBC did require special inspections on the welding of stairs and railing systems. This requirement was last stipulated by Section 1704.3, item 2.5 of IBC 2009. Subsequent updates to IBC 2012, IBC 2015, and IBC 2018 did not include this in building code requirements, either; therefore, special inspections are currently not required on the welding associated with stairs and railing systems.

AISC 360, “Specifications for Structural Steel Buildings,” is the model code referenced by the IBC for structural steel. Please refer to the text box below for the structural steel definition according to AISC 360, Section 2.1. Stairs, handrails, and ladders are not considered structural steel. Therefore, since neither the IBC nor AISC 360 requires special inspections on steel stairs and handrails, the contract documents should clearly state the inspection requirements. It would be helpful if the 5500 section of the construction documents expressly stipulated special inspections on the welding involved for stairs and railing systems.

Should the welding on stairs and railing systems be inspected during the construction phases of all new projects? Of course they should. If a fire or other type of event prevents people from exiting a building via the elevator, they would have to use the steel stairs to leave the building. When the contract documents do not require welding inspection, the Engineer-of-Record should be consulted about whether welding inspections should be provided on project stairs and railing systems.

AISC 360
Section 2.1 Structural steel shall consist of the elements of the structural frame that are shown and sized in the structural design documents, essential to support design loads. Section 2.2 Structural steel shall not include other steel, iron or metal items that are not, generally, described in Section 2.1 (Includes stairs and handrails)

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