The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act of 1970) was created to protect workers from serious injury on the job. These days, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) serves that purpose by enforcing a variety of protective workplace safety and health standards. One set of those standards involves stairway and handrail safety. You may be familiar with the continuous handrail standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, read on for more details on handrail continuity per OSHA.
Handrail Continuity Per OSHA
About OSHA Standards
OSHA mandates certain protective workplace safety standards, offering assistance to both employers and employees to keep workplaces safe. OSHA standards apply to most employers, encompassing a variety of industries including construction, maritime operations, and manufacturing. OSHA standards cover a number of potentially hazardous workplace conditions. For example, they limit hazardous chemicals in the workplace and require employers to maintain safe equipment. That includes handrails, which are a key part of keeping a workplace safe and accessible.
General OSHA Handrail Requirements
Section 1910.29(b)(2)(iv) of OSHA code outlines the need for semi-continuous handrails in work environments. The code explains that midrails or architectural panels should be installed so that the openings between handrail sections are not more than 19 inches wide. Beyond that, OSHA outlines several general handrail requirements:
- Stairways with four or more risers (or that rise more than 30 inches in height – whichever is less) must have at least one handrail.
- Handrails must provide an adequate handhold for employees to grasp to prevent falls.
- Handrails and top rails of the stair rail systems must be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of weight applied within two inches of the top edge in any downward or outward direction, at any point along the top edge.
- Guardrail systems must be smooth-surfaced to protect employees from injury, such as punctures or lacerations, and to prevent catching or snagging of clothing.
- Handrails must not be more than 37 inches (94 cm) high, nor less than 30 inches (76 cm) from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface of the tread.
- Temporary handrails must have a minimum clearance of three inches between the handrail and walls, stair rail systems, and other objects.
- Winding or spiral stairways must have a handrail to prevent use of areas where the tread width is less than six inches.
Do OSHA Requirements Apply to Me?
When in doubt, the answer is “yes.” OSHA covers the vast majority of private sector employers and their employees across all 50 states. There are very few exclusions from OSHA, but they include self-employed individuals, churches, federal and state governments, businesses regulated by different federal statutes (such as nuclear power and mining companies), and farms that have only immediate family members as employees. Even if you are exempt from OSHA standards, continuous handrails in your workplace are an important way to keep your employees safe.
OSHA’s handrail requirements are a bit more general than the ADA’s requirements. Unlike the ADA, handrail continuity per OSHA allows openings between handrail sections as long as they are not more than 19 inches wide. However, if you have to comply with OSHA standards, chances are that you have to comply with ADA standards as well. More often than not, that means purchasing a continuous handrail to keep your employees and visitors safe.
Ready to purchase a continuous handrail for your building? At Aluminum Handrail Direct, we are committed to providing high-quality aluminum handrails that are durable, maintenance free, affordable, and attractive. If you have questions about when handrails are required or if you are searching for a handrail system that fits your needs, call us at 417-409-3179 or visit Aluminum Handrail Direct’s online store today. We offer handrails, wall mounts, mounting screws and anchors, touch-up spray paint, and much more. We look forward to hearing from you!