Read this article to learn about height regulations for handrails in the UK and how they differ indoors and outdoors.
The legal minimum height for handrails in the UK is between 900 and 1000 mm from the top of the railing to the pitch line. The spindles must also be close enough together that a 100 mm sphere can’t pass in between the opening. You don’t need a handrail for the first two steps, but you need a railing for the proceeding steps.
Keep reading to learn the differences and regulations between indoor rails and outdoor rails, some of the safety precautions in place to protect both adults and children, and what materials make the best railing.
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What are the Laws for the Height of Handrails in the UK?
Due to the Occupiers Liability Act of 1957, both homeowners and business owners are liable for accidents in their buildings. They’re not only responsible for protecting wanted residences within their structure but the safety of trespassers as well, so property owners must adequately guard all properties with railings that adhere to the laws.
While handrails, in general, must have a minimum height of 900 to 1000 mm. Under the law, there are different regulations for domestic staircases, public gathering areas, and general commercial buildings and offices. However, there are no strict limitations on the materials that can make a handrail.
Height Regulations for Children’s Safety
There are more specific regulations for areas that children will use. All places where children will populate need to meet the approved Document K of the UK’s building regulations which states that railings must be at least 100 m apart. Any horizontal railing must have a design that prevents climbing and is resistant to pushing or leaning.
Railings on outdoor roots or balconies of domestic and residential areas must be at least 1.1m high. Handrails on stairs or balconies must have gaps under 99 mm in all directions to prevent children from passing through them. It is also ideal if the railings are visually contrastive to the rest of their surroundings, so they are easier to identify.
Height Regulations on Outdoor Railings
Railings for roofs or Terraces of any kind differ from indoor railings and must have a minimum height of at least 1.1 M from the floor to the top of the railing.
According to the Work at Height regulations of 2005, railings used for construction work must be at least 950 mm I and have a gap below 470 mm to adhere to the European Directive and Construction Health, Safety, and Welfare regulations.
Height Regulations on Indoor Railings
Indoor railings for stairs and ballast rates must be at least 0.9 M from the floor to the top of the railing. However, it would be best if you considered the particularities of the environments they’re protecting while constructing the railing. For example, if children will use the area, you must ensure that your railings design adheres to the children’s safety regulations.
The building owner is held liable for any accidents on the property; therefore, railings must be strategically placed end must be assessed and reassessed add intervals. These assessments will ensure that any preventable risks will be caught ahead of time and dealt with effectively. The cost of these assessments is the owner’s obligation though it’s less than the cost of dealing with a severe accident.
While specific regulations dictate the height and spacing for hand railings, they’re still the obligation of a project manager to look beyond the simple numbers and address any risk associated with the unique building itself. Again, all injuries and other accidents on the property are the obligations of the building’s owner regardless of whether or not you could foresee the accident.
What are the Best Materials for Handrails?
Since there are no strict regulations regarding the materials that someone can use to make handrails both for external and internal railings, there is some debate about what exactly makes the best material for railings. Some of this will depend on the purpose of the space, whether it is for children, a public place, or a construction site, so the materials of choice will fluctuate depending on the purpose.
Here are some of the most common materials people use for hand railings and some of their characteristics to help you choose which one will best secure the area you need a hand railing for.
Aluminum is a very durable material, and you won’t have to worry about it coronavirus or rusting or giving splinters to those who use the hand of down. They’re all so great for outdoor railings because they will stand firm with different kinds of rough weather, and they won’t rust from exposure to moisture. We also last for a long time while still maintaining strength and stability.
Steel is another great option if you need an exterior railing. It’s a very durable material with superior strength and toughness. However, it is less aesthetically pleasing than aluminum. On the upside, it is very resistant to scratches and dents, so you won’t have to focus on maintaining a steel railing.
Many things that make aluminum railings so beneficial are also true of vinyl railings. Vinyl is five times stronger than wood and won’t rust, peel or decompose, making it an excellent exterior railing of choice. It also won’t be targeted by pests like termites like traditional wood.
To make vinyl even better, it doesn’t its color doesn’t fade over time in the way that stain or paint would. They also have a lot more flexibility in terms of style, which means you can get something that perfectly fits your aesthetic.
Do I Really Need A Handrail?
One of the first things you’ll likely want to consider with a handrail is whether you actually need one or not. In most cases, the answer will be yes, you do need a handrail. Whether it’s a domestic or commercial situation, most of the time, a handrail will be required for safety reasons.
That said, there are exceptions to this rule and they can vary greatly by installation. There are aspects relating to the style of the stairs as well as things like the type of building. Before you make a final decision, I’d highly recommend checking specific regulations that apply to your situation.
What Is The Correct Position For A Handrail?
No matter whether you are a business owner or a homeowner, you have a liability under the Occupiers Liability Act of 1957 to ensure that any handrails are installed within the legal regulations.
Not only does the act cover the people authorised to use your building but it also covers trespassers. If someone were to come onto your property without your permission, you may still be liable if they were to have an accident relating to a lack or or incorrectly installed handrail.
The laws related to the installation of handrails are set out in Section K of the UK Building Regulations. This states that any handrail on a staircase should sit no less than 900mm from the pitch of the staircase or the floor and no higher than 1000mm from either of these points.
Where a handrail is not positioned directly against the wall, there must be at least a 75mm gap to ensure that the user is able to properly grip the handrail.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the width of the stairs will impact the number of handrails required. In the case that the stairs are less than one metre wide, only one handrail is required. Although, you can install handrails on either side, should you wish. For stairs that are wider than one metre, two handrails must be installed; one on each side.
Furthermore, Section K of the Building Regulations states that if the staircase has bullnose steps at the base then this section does not legally require a handrail.
Handrail Regulations For Children
It’s important to keep in mind that there are further rules that apply to areas where children will be using the stairs. These rules also appear in Section K of the Building Regulations and state that railings must be at least 100 mm apart.
If horizontal rails are installed, these must prevent children from climbing. The rails should also be easily able to resist leaning and pushing.
If you are installing handrails on a balcony or rooftop, in either a commercial or domestic property then these must be at least 1100mm off the ground. Moreover, the rails should have gaps that do not exceed 99mm as this will prevent children from squeezing through them.
What About Outdoor Handrails?
Outdoor handrails have a slightly different set of rules compared to those that are installed indoors. As we have discussed above, those that are installed on rooftops or balconies have different requirements and these are very similar in other types of outdoor handrails.
For example, any outdoor handrail must have at least 1100mm clearance from the floor or platform. Where railings are being installed for people working at height, they must be at least 950mm high with gaps that do not exceed 470mm. These rules are in accordance with the Work At Height Regulations as well as the European Directive and Construction Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations.
While the minimum legal handrail height in the UK is between 900 and 1000 mm from the top of the railing to the pitch line, there are other less strict rules regarding what material makes the handrail. Even so, many laws protect both residence and patrons to public spaces to ensure their safety on both staircases and elevated platforms, especially in regards to children.