Health and safety guide to handrails

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steel staircase handrail

While handrails on a staircase can add a beautiful design element, they are also an important safety feature to prevent loss of balance or falls.

There are many styles, materials and designs to choose from, but what are the health and safety requirements for handrails?

What regulations cover staircase safety and handrails?

Building Regulations Part K (Protection from falling, collision and impact) covers the design of staircases. Staircase Building Regulations are covered by further regulations parts M1 and M2.

It’s worth noting that the regulations differ slightly for the following categories:

Private for a domestic property.

Utility for public a places where a substantial number of people will gather.

General access for semi-public common stairs, usually serving more than one dwelling, offices or factories.

Do all flights of stairs require a handrail?

Building regulations thate that a handrail must be provided for flights of stairs with a drop greater than 600mm. On most staircases, this means that the maximum number of stairs you can have before requiring a handrail is two.

This means that you don’t necessarily need a handrail for the first two steps of a staircase, which can be beneficial for design and space.

Do you need a handrail on both sides of the staircase?

If the stairs are less than 1m wide, they must have a handrail on at least one side. If the stairs are wider than 1m, they must have a handrail on both sides.

Where possible, it is preferable to have a handrail on both sides to maximise safety.

How high should handrails be?

Handrails should be between 900mm and 10000mm tall when measured from the top of the handrail to the pitch line. This is the imaginary line that runs up the staircase connecting the nosing of all the stair treads and gives the angle (or pitch) of the staircase.

How wide should the gaps between handrail spindles be?

Regulations state that a 100mm sphere must not be able to pass through the gaps between spindles or any other gaps in the handrail or staircase design, such as glass panels or open risers.

This is to prevent a small child’s head from being able to fit in any of the gaps, which could lead to serious injury.

Are some railing designs safer than others?

The safest design for one staircase may not always be the best for other applications. It’s important to work with an architectural designer to ensure that your staircase meets relevant regulations.

It is worth noting that, while they are not strictly forbidden, horizontal rails, (commonly known as ranch railings) should not be used in buildings accessed by children under five, as they are easy to climb and could lead to injury.

What handrail design options are there?

The options in terms of material and design are almost endless. Canal Architectural’s most popular handrail options include:

  • Stainless steel
  • Mild steel
  • Timber
  • Leather

Whatever design features you’re looking for, get in touch with us and we can discuss your ideas to ensure that your stairs are stylish and safe.

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