Stepladders are used primarily in industrial buildings as a climbing aid for reaching equipment and machinery in confined spaces. They have recently been used in place of ladders, which were widely used in the past, but are less safe.
Stepladders and auxiliary stairways can have a pitch of 39º to 45º. At 30º, a stairway is very easy to use, even when carrying a load, but it takes up a great deal of space. A pitch of 38º takes up much less space, but is still easy and safe to climb and descend. From 45º upwards, stairways become much steeper, but are also very space-saving. The goings are smaller than on standard stairways, which increases the risk of inadvertent slipping. As a result, they should be used only occasionally, ideally only by a small number of personnel with relevant training.
Fundamentally, there is no reason why steep steps and stairways cannot be used, although experts recommend that careful consideration should be given to how they are used. Very shallow steps with low pitch ratios usually exceed the maximum permissible going of 32 cm that is stipulated for stairways. Nonetheless, the tread surfaces should exhibit a gradient of 2 percent (1:50) to the nosing. As usual, steps and platforms are calculated according to the step-length rule. Even on very shallow steps, all the steps in a flight must have identical dimensions.
In basic terms, the following applies: Stairways in special plants that are used frequently by lots of people should have a pitch of between 30º and 38º. Stairways in special plants that are used on an infrequent basis by a small number of suitably trained people, e.g. during inspection of maintenance work, should not be steeper than 45º and should only have an angle of inclination of 60º where this is unavoidable due to space restrictions. These guidelines help to prevent a great many accidents, as statistics from insurance companies show, and are also very practical from an ergonomic perspective.