When you’re constructing a new project, it’s easy to focus on the big picture and neglect the details. However, certain details – handrails, for example – are crucial factors in your building’s safety. When is a handrail required? Whether your building is for residential, commercial, or public use, it’s important to keep national handrail regulations in mind.
When Is a Handrail Required?
There are several national organizations that govern handrail requirements, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is likely the most well-known. The ADA has very specific handrail requirements for individuals designing and building any kind of public accommodation or commercial facility. The ADA’s most recent Standards for Accessible Design were released in 2010, outlining a wide variety of requirements for public access facilities. The specific handrail requirements are found in Chapter 5: General Site and Building Elements, and they outline a few key points in terms of where handrails are required:
- Handrails are required along all ramps with a rise greater than six inches.
- Handrails are required along all newly constructed stairways.
- Handrails are not required along walking surfaces with running slopes less than 1:20. However, if handrails are in place along these slopes, the handrails must comply with ADA regulations outlined in the Standards for Accessible Design.
The guidelines for public and commercial properties are fairly straightforward. However, residential handrail guidelines can get a bit more confusing. As a general rule of thumb, residential railings must adhere to International Residential Code (IRC) standards. These standards, which encompass all one- and two-family homes of three stories or less, were developed by an international governing body known as the International Code Council. While ADA standards have remained fairly consistent over the last decade, the International Code Council updates the IRC document periodically. Builders should double-check that they are using the most recent version of the code when installing a handrail. The current code was updated in 2018, with residential handrail requirements available in the Building Planning section of the code.
OSHA Handrail Requirements
Thus far, we’ve discussed handrail requirements that pertain to building visitors and residents. But what about commercial building owners and employees? While handrail guidelines for the general public are governed by the ADA and the IRC, there is one more governing body to be aware of: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. OSHA is a subset of the United States Department of Labor focused on governing employee health and safety, and it regulates handrails as part of its Fall Protection Systems standards. Keep in mind that OSHA requirements are mainly applicable in areas not accessible to the public, like construction zones. OSHA covers a variety of guidelines for guard railings and balusters:
- Guard railings are required if the area has a drop of 48 inches or higher
- Openings between intermediate railings must be less than 19 inches
- Intermediate balusters must be placed no more than 19 inches apart
- Railings must withstand a 200-pound load applied in a downward or outward direction
So when is a handrail required? There are several guidelines governed by the ADA, the IRC, and OSHA. Make sure to heed these guidelines, whether you’re working on new construction or simply updating an older building. The products you work with are also crucial. When shopping for handrails, prioritize handrails with excellent warranties, foolproof installation instructions, and reputable customer service representatives.
At Aluminum Handrail Direct, we’re committed to providing high-quality aluminum handrails that are durable, maintenance-free, affordable, and attractive. If you’re searching for a handrail system that works perfectly for your needs, visit our online store today.