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Building access ramp specifications & codes: this document provides building code specifications addressing ramp construction, ramp safety and proper ramp railing and guardrail construction.
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Requirements for Guardrailings & Handrailings at Access Ramps
Add railings on your ramp: if the ramp crosses above a ditch, ravine, or is more than three feet from the ground at its highest point, a railing is likely to be required by local and national building codes.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Even for ramps that are just a few inches above the ground, railings improve ramp safety by providing additional visual clues about the ramp's slope as well as providing a grasping surface in case of a fall.
Our photo (left) shows the author's daughter (at left, ca. 1979) with a friend, demonstrating that this building access ramp was unsafe: a railing was provided only on one side despite the drop off, and the railing that the carpenters installed was both open (a child hazard), and used a horizontal mid-height member, easily climbed-on by a child (another child hazard).
A Comparison of Building Codes Specifying Hand Railing Requirementsfor Access Ramps
Railings in stair codes and specifications refer to the safety barrier along ramps as well as at steps or stairs, landings, and balconies.
Sample excerpts of sources which a building code compliance inspector would be expected to cite in support of requiring a properly-designed, properly-secured guard rail include but are not limited to the citations below.
International Building Code 2000 (BOCA, ICBO, SBCCI)
1003.3.3.11.3 Handrail grasp ability. Handrails with a circular cross section shall have an outside diameter of at least 1.25 inches (32 mm) and not greater than 2 inches (51 mm) or shall provide equivalent grasp ability.
If the handrail is not circular, it shall have a perimeter dimension of at least 4 inches (102 mm) and not greater than 6.25 inches (159 mm) with a maximum cross-section dimension of 2.25 inches (57 mm).
Edges [of th handrailing] shall have a minimum radius of 0.125 inch (3.2 mm).
100333.11.4 Continuity. Handrail-gripping surfaces shall be continuous, without interruption by newel posts or other obstructions.
Our photo (left) illustrates a high ramp crossing over a busy highway in Guadalajara, Mexico. The guardrail is continuous, probably has adequate strength, but lacks child-safe enclosing balusters.
1607.7 Loads on Handrails, guards, grab bars and vehicle barriers
1607.7.1.1 Concentrated Load. Handrail assemblies and guards shall be able to resist a single concentrated load of 200 pounds (0.89kN), applied in any direction at any point along the top, and have attachment devices and supporting structure to transfer this loading to appropriate structural elements of the building.
1607.7.1.2 Components. Intermediate rails (all those except the handrail), balusters and panel fillers shall be designed to withstand a horizontally applied normal load of 50 pounds (0.22 kN) on an area not to exceed one square foot (305mm2) including openings and space between rails.
Is this access ramp handrailing (photo at left) actually graspable? Not very. All of the model building codes contain descriptions of graspable and non-graspable handrailings by dimension, shape, profile, suport, obstructions and other parameters.
Details are at GRASPABILITY of HANDRAILINGS.
BOCA National Property Maintenance Code 1993:
PM-305.5 Stairs and railings: all interior stairs and railings shall be maintained in sound condition and good repair.
Commentary: Handrails, treads and risers must be structurally sound, firmly attached to the structure, and properly maintained to perform their intended function safely.
During an inspection the code official should inspect all stringers, risers, treads, and handrails.
PM-305.6 Handrails and guards: Every handrail and guard shall be firmly fastened and capable of supporting normally imposed loads and shall be maintained in good condition.
Commentary: This section provides for the safety and maintenance of handrails and guards. See Section PM-702.9 for additional requirements.
PM-702.9 Stairways, handrails and guards: Every exterior and interior flight of stairs having more than four risers, and every open portion of a stair, landing or balcony which is more than 30 inches (762mm) high, nor more than 42 inches (1067mm) high, measured vertically above the nosing of the tread or above the finished floor of the landing or walking surfaces.
Guards shall be not less than 30 inches (762mm) high above the floor of the landing or balcony.
Florida Handrail & Guardrail Requirements & Codes for Access Ramps
Landing platforms for ramps: Make sure the ramp is properly designed in width, structural support, and that it includes a landing both at the upper end at a building entry/exit door, and where required by local code or ground surface conditions, also provide a landing platform at the ramp's lower end.
As we mentioned at our page to photo, the step at this building access ramp entry reduced the ramp slope to less than 1:12 but it created an obstruction for wheelchair users.
While the landing platform assists the users of this access ramp, what we had specified was that the ramp bottom end terminate at grade, without a step. And this platform is probably too short in the direction of travel.
The "railings" along this ramp are not readily graspable, but as the ramp is nearly level, we considered them as a balcony railing not a handrail.
Also see GUARDRAILS on BALCONIES, DECKS, LANDINGS for details about safety railings on landings and open hallways, porches, screened porches, balconies - horizontal walking surfaces.
Continue reading at RAMP LANDING CODES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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