Safety and Handrails: Don’t Come Up Short

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What is the OSHA Handrail Height?

How much does it cost to install railing on a stairway? Not much, I’ll bet, but just recently, a company was ordered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to pay $38,500 because it failed to provide handrails on an open-sided four-foot platform. This was considered a willful violation by the administration. They should’ve asked: What is the OSHA handrail height?

Ganapatibapa Inc., was also cited for two serious safety violations. One is failing to provide appropriate training to employees and the other is exceeding the weight duty limit of a portable ladder.

Safety with Handrails

So what is a handrail for?This material is basically a vertical barrier that provides you with a handhold or support to prevent falls. Not only is it useful on stairways, it’s also ideal for use when you work on or near holes, open-sided floors, floor openings, wall openings, platforms, and runways.Handrails also serve as a handhold in case you trip or slip on a high place or near openings or holes.

OSHA guidelines state that handrails and top rails of stair rails/stairways must be able to withstand “a force of at least 200 pounds applied within 2 inches of the top edge, in any downward or outward direction, at any point along the top edge.”

OSHA requirements also indicate that handrails must:

  • Consist of a lengthwise member mounted directly on a wall or partition with the use of brackets that are attached to the lower side of the handrail.
  • Not be less than 30 inches high nor more than 34 inches from their upper surface to the surface of tread.
  • Be at least 2 inches in diameter when made of hardwoods.
  • Be at least 1 ½ inches in diameter when made of metal pipe.
  • Have brackets providing a clearance of at least 3 inches between handrails and the wall or any other projection.
  • Be rounded so that it’s easy for employees to grasp them.

Railings for Stairways

OSHA requires employers to have at least one handrail and stair rail system/ stairway railing for stairways with four or more risers or stairways that are 30 inches (76cm) high.While the handrail serves as your handhold, the stairway railing/stair rail system is the vertical barrier itself erected along exposed sides of a stairway.

You should follow these guidelines when installing stair rail systems/stairway railings and handrails:

  • First, stairways that are less than 44 inches wide and with both sides open must have railing on EACH side.
  • Secondly, stairways that are less than 44 inches wide but with both sides enclosed must have a right side descending rail.
  • Stairways that are greater than 44 inches wide but less than 88 inches must have one handrail on each enclosed side and one stair railing on each open side.
  • Stairways that are greater than 88 inches wide must have one handrail on each enclosed side, one stair railing on each open side and one intermediate stair railing located approximately midway of width.
  • When handrails are built as a temporary part of a structure, they must have a minimum clearance of 3 inches (8cm) between the handrails and stair rail systems/stairway railings, walls and other objects.
  • When the top edge of a stair rail system/stairway railing also serves as a handrail, it should not be more than 37 inches high nor less than 36 inches from the surface of the tread to the upper surface of the stairway railing/stair rail system.

Standard Railings

Standards railings are different from stairway railings in that they are erected along exposed edges of a ramp, platform, runway, floor opening or wall opening. OSHA requirements state that standard railings must also be able to withstand 200 pounds applied in any direction.

Take note of the following guidelines when installing standard railings:

  • Standard railings must consist of a top rail, immediate rail, and posts.
  • They must have a vertical height of 42 inches from the upper surface of the top rail to the floor, platform, ramp or runway level.
  • Top rails must be smooth-surfaced throughout their entire length.
  • The ends of the rails must not overhand the terminal posts, except if the overhang does not pose a projection hazard.
  • Intermediate rails must be halfway between the top rail and the floor, platform, ramp or runway.
  • Posts must not be spaced more than 8 feet on centers.
  • Pipe railings, posts, and top and intermediate railings must have a diameter of at least 1 ½ inches.

With falls being one of the leading causes of injuries in the workplace, a few bucks shelled out for handrails and railings won’t hurt. After all, there’s no place for being stingy when safety is your main consideration.

Call (888) 886-0350 today to speak with one of our safety solutions experts.

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