Ramps & Runways

Ramps are inclined structures used for the purpose of moving personnel, vehicles, materials, or equipment from one level to another. A runway is a passageway or walkway, elevated above the floor or ground level, such as a foot walk along shafting or between buildings.

 Guidelines for safe construction and use of ramps and runways:

  • Must be of adequate width for their intended or actual use and should be no less than 22 inches wide.
  • Must be provided with standard railings.
  • Standard handrails must be provided for workers who are regularly required to go to elevated levels.
  • Fixed ramps must be equipped with handrails on each open side, inclined at no greater angle than 24º, securely fastened at the top and bottom to prevent shifting, and braced to prevent bouncing.
  • An adequate anti-slip surface must be applied to ramps whenever the slope warrants it. Adequate cleats secured at uniform intervals not to exceed 18 inches and extending the full width of the walkway when practical, may be used for this purpose.
  • Wear non-slip footwear whenever working on ramps, runways, or other elevated surfaces, especially in inclement weather.
  • Wherever tools, machine parts, or materials are to be used on the ramp or runway, a toe board must be provided on each exposed side. 
  • A toe board is an elevated lip, at least 4 inches tall which protrudes vertically from the walking/working surface or the back of a stair tread to prevent a foot, tool, or material from falling off the edge of the elevation.
  • Runways used exclusively for special purposes (such as oiling, shafting, or filling tank cars) may have the railing on one side omitted where operating conditions require, providing the falling hazard is minimized by using a runway not less than 18 inches wide.
  • Regardless of height, open-sided floors, platforms, ramps, or runways above or adjacent to dangerous equipment, pickling or galvanizing tanks, degreasing units, and similar hazards must be guarded with a standard railing and toe board.
  • Ramps and runways must be well lit, free of trip hazards, and kept free of clutter and debris.

Ramps and runways for vehicles

Must have adequate width and evenness for safe operation of equipment and be provided with timber guards of not less than 6-inch by 6-inch material set on 3-inch blocks, or the equivalent, placed parallel to and secured to the sides of the ramp or runway.

Material handling ramps

  • A means for slowing material being moved down ramps must be provided whenever excessive speed might create a hazard to workers.
  • Where the person putting material down a ramp does not have a clear view of a lower landing on which workers are employed, a horn, bell or other warning device which is automatic in operation must be provided and maintained in good condition at all times.
  • The underside of all material handling ramps or landings must be fenced off and marked with appropriate warning signs unless provided with other adequate means of protecting workers from falling material.

Standard railings for use with ramps or runways:

  • For wood - posts must be of at least 2-inch by 4-inch stock spaced 6 feet or less; the top and intermediate rails must be at least 2 by 4-inch stock.
  • For pipe - posts, top, and intermediate railings must be at least 1 ½ inches nominal diameter with posts spaced not more than 8 feet on centers.
  • For structural steel - posts and rails must be of 2-inch by 2-inch by 3/8 -inch angles or other metal of equivalent strength.
  • The anchoring of posts and framing of members for railings of all types must be of such construction that the completed
  • Structure will be capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied in any direction at any point on the top rail.
  • Other types, sizes, and arrangements of railing construction are acceptable provided they meet all of the following conditions:
    • A smooth-surfaced top rail at a height above floor, platform, runway, or ramp level of 42 inches nominal.
    • A strength to withstand at least the minimum requirement of 200 pounds top rail pressure.
    • Protection between top rail and working surface or stair treads, equivalent to that afforded by a standard intermediate rail.


Ramps and runways will typically sustain heavy traffic and must be designed and built to handle it. An inadequately designed or poorly built structure, even for very temporary use, may cause injuries, or damage to equipment, and cost more in time and money than a properly built one. Exercise caution when walking or working on any ramp, runway, or elevated surface.