Introduction to Handrail Regulations in the UK

Believe it or not, the UK has some pretty strict regulations when it comes to the installation of handrails. 

On this page, we want to give you an introduction to some of the handrail regulations that you may need to pay attention to. Do bear in mind that these regulations are subject to change, and they will regularly be reviewed to ensure that the regulations are as safe as possible.

Why Are There Handrail Regulations In The UK?

Handrail regulations are there to help protect people when they are walking up and down the stairs. A good handrail could potentially save lives, or at least prevent a very serious injury.

Do These Regulations Apply To Both Commercial And Residential Properties?

For the most part, yes.

There are tougher regulations for commercial properties or non-dwellings. However, the rules are pretty much clear across the board. If you have stairs in a property, then you need to have a handrail going up those stairs. 

What Are The Most Important Handrail Regulations In The UK?

There are a few very important handrail regulations that do not change.

The first is that stairs will always need to have at least one handrail. It doesn’t matter how long they are. It needs to have a handrail on at least one side of the stairs.

If the stairs are wider than one metre, then they need to have handrails on both sides of the stairs.

The handrail must also be between 90cm and 100cm in handrail height. This is to ensure that people are able to grip the handrail without any issues.

In residential properties, the handrail can have pretty much any design that you want. However, you will not be allowed to have a handrail that has more than 10cm of space between any gaps on the handrail. 

Finally, there is no requirement for you to have a handrail to cover the final two steps at the bottom, although some people will do so anyway. You will need to have a handrail that reaches the top of the stairs, though.

Are There Different Handrail Regulations For Non-Dwellings In The UK?

There are slightly different rules related to non-dwellings.

For the purpose of the regulations, it is important to note that a non-dwelling is anything not inside of a home. This means that these rules will apply to staircases between flats. This is because nobody will be living inside of that hall. However, this is something that will have been heavily considered throughout the construction of the property.

The rules that we listed above will all apply. However, the handrails must extend all the way to the bottom of the steps. If there is a landing at the bottom (i.e. between flights of stairs), then the handrails must continue along that landing. Basically, there should be no point where people who are climbing up and won those stairs should be taking their hands off of the handrail.

The handrail at the top and the bottom should also be shaped in such a way that it is impossible for you to catch your clothes, bags, etc. on it. This is to help prevent people from falling down the stairs because they managed to catch their clothing.

The handrails must also not block any exit or access route to the stairs. This is to ensure that people can exit the property in an orderly fashion in the event of an emergency. 

There are also restrictions on the type of material that can be used. This means:

  • The handrails should be non-slip
  • They should not heat up or cool down drastically in the case of intense temperature fluctuations.
  • In an a building prone to low maintenance or vandalism, then the handrail must be made of a material that does not conduct well, or at least coated in one.

The most important extra regulation, however, comes with the colouring of the handrail. The handrail must be easy to distinguish from the wall i.e. the colours should not be the same. The handrail should not blend in with the environment at all. This is to ensure that people are able to grip the handrail quickly if they fall down.

Are There Different Regulations For Ramps?

Sometimes, yes.

There are two important requirements here.

Firstly, if the ramp is in a residential property, it will only need to have a handrail if the ramp is higher than 60cm.

If the ramp is in a non-dwelling, then it will need to have a handrail no matter how high the ramp is. In fact, it is a legal requirement to have a handrail on both sides of the ramp.

Are There Handrail Regulations For Landings?

Only in non-dwellings.

If there is a landing between staircases, then the distance between the bottom of the stairs and the wall must be, at minimum, the same width as the stairs. As we said before, there must be a handrail along the entirety of the landing. 

Are There Restrictions On The Placement of Handrails?

Yes. However, these can vary based upon the pitch of the stairs/ramp, as well as the area where the stairs/ramp are installed. Therefore, the installer of the handrail will need to determine the position based upon this information. In almost all cases, the handrail will need to be set out from the wall to allow a good grip.

What Happens If a Building Breaches Handrail Regulations?

In a residential property, probably not. However, no good contractor will even contemplate building stairs that do not conform to handrail regulations.

In a commercial or non-dwelling property, then a lot could potentially happen. The stairs could be closed, fines could be issues, etc.

Conclusion

There are strict guidelines for the installation of handrails in the UK. This is for the purposes of safety. If you are having a handrail installed, then it is important you consult the regulations. If you don’t, then you run the risk of needing to install a new handrail later on.