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Questions & answers about handrailings

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Questions & Answers about handrails & handrailings for stairs, steps, & other locations:

FAQs about choosing, installing, & codes or standards for handrails or handrailings (los pasamanos).

In this article series here we give stair rail construction & installation specifications & building code citation for handrailings, i.e. stairway handrails.

This article series includes photographs, and examples of handrailings & stair & railing safety defects and gives checklists & images used in inspecting indoor or outdoor stair railings or handrails and related conditions for safety and proper construction. Our page top photo illustrates a well-designed handrailing and stair guardrail at the CIA.

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Handrail Specifications Requirement & Installation FAQs

Guardrailing extension Vassar College (C) Daniel Friedman

Recently-posted questions & answers about handrails

On 2017-02-18 by (mod) - code for interval between guardrail posts

Yep. See http://inspectapedia.comzp GUARDRAILS on BALCONIES, DECKS, LANDINGS for details

On 2017-02-16 14:08:35.895318 by Chris

In Niagara falls, Canada, if a balcony railing is over 10', we have to put a post in to break it, does that apply in the state of New York, Buffalo area?

On 2017-01-12 15:45:45.954717 by (mod)


A handrail that is just 3/4" away from the wall is not readily-graspable and is improper and unsafe.

Details are at

On 2017-01-11 21:35:33.601593 by Mitch

For ADA compliance.Do wooden handrails in a nursing home have to have a radius the meets the wall? We have a system that has the radius coming up 3/4" to 1 inch away for the finished surface.

On 2016-12-14 10:18:13.234517 by edwarda dowden

when must a center hand rail be installed on steps??. the distance from side to side is 7 feet. not safe for seniors

On 2016-10-20 13:17:53.317711 by (mod)

Dennis I've not found a specification handrail end shape, but if you're asking about leaving the end of a handrail open vs. returning it to the wall, thus closing it, the latter is preferable to avoid a snag hazard.

On 2016-10-19 22:24:01.590488 by Dennis

On an ADA handrail do the corners have to be radius or can they be mitered?

On 2016-10-13 17:35:30.011099 by MO

I have an exterior stair with a center handrail. The post and rail are both 1 1/2" schedule 40 galvanized pipe.

There is no bracket connecting the rail to the post, the vertical post is fully welded to the bottom of the handrail. Isn't the graspability interrupted here the handrail meets the vertical pipe post?

On 2016-10-05 21:48:36.307288 by Cam

Are handrails required for a set of exterior steps (7) that are part of a retaining wall?

On 2016-09-29 22:42:15.499361 by (mod)

Rob I'm sorry but I don't understand the question nor the role of a roof overhang nor how a roof overhang affects the need for a handrail or guardrail;
Speaking generally, I'd expect to see handrails on both sides of a 4 ft. wide stairway and I'd expect to see a guardrailing along any stairs whose side would otherwise be open to someone falling through at the side.

On 2016-09-29 02:41:01.408346 by Rob

Senior living facility stairs on the exterior of building stairs or 4 feet wide and there's a 3 foot Eve from the roof overhang Stairs should the railing be on the wall side underneath the eve or on the banister side outside the protection of the eve

On 2016-09-12 23:18:54.520353 by (mod)

Craig please see the hand rail extension specifications at

On 2016-09-12 21:43:38.984559 by Craig

How far beyond the final step must a hand rail extend?

On 2016-08-23 23:24:13.026051 by (mod)

Great question, Dev. Sorry I don't have a clear answers. It depends, as Mark Cramer says. It depends on where you live and what local regulations apply there. Typically a licensed contractor building a stairway as part of a construction project has to obtain (or the owner / customer obtains) a building permit, and local building inspectors also inspect the job.

On 2016-08-22 19:14:38.120407 by Dev

What kind of license is necessary to build and install an all metal stair rail in a residential property?

On 2016-08-08 22:39:20.533019 by (mod)

It's a perfectly fair question Brent, but I can't guess what your local building code compliance inspector will say or do about un-specified non-compliant stair or rail or handrail details.

On 2016-08-08 15:38:04.653627 by Brent K.

I'd like to add additional height to a landing railing in our plant to bring it to the proper height requirements, but there are also some very minor non-compliances with the railing and attached stairs that I don't want to address at this time.

Question: Will an inspection be required for adding height to this plant railing that may lead to a mandate to make the other additional minor modifications?

On 2016-07-07 19:25:10.583806 by (mod)


As my genius home inspector Mark Cramer (Tampa FL) says .... it depends.

Handrails must be continuous and graspable. But I find that depending on the handrail diameter and how I wrap my fingers around smaller diameter but "code compliant" railings, it is possible to wham into the handrail bracket in some installations.

Just "guessing" as I don't have a shred of information about your handrailing, if the bracket is fastened to the underside of the handrailing and the railing complies with the specifications in this article series such as spacing from wall and continuity, it's probably code-compliant.

You can use the page top or bottom CONTACT link to send photos, measurements, details, and an image of your hand against the bracket and I may be able to comment further.

Finally, "code compliance" is the authority of your local building code inspector.

On 2016-07-07 09:59:22.739651 by Ken

I have knocked my hand against a handrail bracket that is mounted from the side which does not allow free movement along the length of the handrail. Is this mounting against the building regulations?

On 2016-05-14 18:51:54.714073 by (mod)

Dave, I can't answer the question. Certainly there are some maintenance areas where because of physical layout there is not normal access space, but in most cases the worker does need to be protected as per OSHA guidelines.

On 2016-05-13 13:27:23.943547 by Dave

Does handrail have to be installed on stairways to access a "maintenance only" area in a commercial building?

On 2016-03-21 02:29:42.630622 by John

Is 2" PVC piping permitted to be used as handrail material in a school building?

On 2015-12-26 22:28:01.203323 by (mod)


I'm not sure as we may not be talking about the same parts.

The rough opening of a door in wood frame construction is made of 2x4's or 2x6's; Into that rough opening a door fame is typically constructed of 1x lumber such as 1x6 pine boards nailed to the rough opening framing but with spacers to align the door frame itself plumb and square

- so a screw or bolt that just is into the 1x lumber is not a structural connection; you'd need to connect to the 2x4 or 2x6.

On 2015-12-26 19:48:40.277575 by Arlette Rachel Twersky

Is a door frame considered to be structural framing or just trim?

Question: regulations for theatrical stairs and railings: what are the safety and code requirements?

Q1: Can a railing change as it goes Steel/wood to rope back to Steel/wood ?

Q2: Is there any law (not guides) governing gaps between railing when it cannot be continuous ?

My problem is it is not going to be a permanent structure as it will be part of a set in a theatre (just for the shows) I was wondering whether there were different rules for such? - D. Gould 8/8/2011

Reply: review stair and rail standards, perform local safety inspection, comply with local regulations, educate actors and crew

The short answer is that in a theatrical production where model building codes are not going to be followed you will want to understand the intent of the code and to comply as much as possible with that safety objective.

So to use your example, if a railing changes material but the actor's hand can slide from one section to another without obstruction you are meeting an intent of the model stair codes.

And where railings cannot be continuous there may be serious fall hazards that in my OPINION should be addressed by some means: safety cables, warning markings, special training and preparation of the actors, lighting details, even in some cases a safety harness, etc.

Background on Theatrical Stage Set Stairs and Railing Safety Advice

It is widely recognized [1][2][3][4][5] and [19] That in the more temporary constructions used for theatrical productions and sets, local and model building code standards are rarely respected in total, and except in major cities where local code officials have considered the building and safety code needs of theatres, other local building codes are generally not going to be adequate for theatrical productions.

Some model codes and national codes such as the IBC Stairs Code and the U.S. National Electrical code do include provisions for theatres and stages. There are also texts such as Holloway's Illustrated Theatre Production Guide [4]and Teague's (non-code-compliant) advice for building theatre stairs [5]

You are well aware that there are special hazards to the actors - especially depending on lighting variations etc. and certainly we've both seen productions using tall steep stairs that sport no railings whatsoever.

It is also my OPINION that some productions I've seen involved staging that was so dangerous (indeed people had been injured) that the performance of some actors appeared to be affected by a real fear of falling - which in some perhaps, helped the interpretation of the script.

In some U.S. States and Canadian provinces as well as in Australia, a limited-scope electrical license is required even for theatrical wiring (the fixed building wiring is not touched). There are also some published recommendations such as Electrical Safety in the Theatre (Broadway Press) [3]. Similar rules may apply in other areas.

It makes sense to start any set design with good stair and railing safety practices and to recognize where production requirements (and the director and set designer) need to vary from those by making special effort to compensate and reduce risk. I've seen, for example, use of yellow/black floor safety tape markings and in some productions, use of small diameter wiring as fall barrier warnings. And I would bet that the director/producer and set safety experts also spend time briefing actors on necessary safety precautions.

In addition to consulting with local code officials about requirements for theatrical sets and the use of an onsite safety inspection before dress rehearsals and stage productions begin, there are published safety guidelines for theatrical productions that you might review for suggestions, often more local, such as Yale's guidelines[1].

Australia, for example, has specific standards for licensing people who perform high risk work such as rigging.[2] Those guidelines recognize that for staging reasons standard railings may not be provided (such as balusters 4" o.c. but they require an inspection and approval of the set for trip and fall hazard safety (as well as fire and electrical and other safety concerns) before the production can be staged.

In my OPINION such an inspection is key, but it is also my experience that if an unfortunate injury or fall should occur, you can figure that once attorneys get involved, stairway and railing standards from the standard authorities will be brought to bear.

I pose that a combination of onsite safety inspections by a qualified authority and careful training and preparation of the actors themselves, to alert them to specific risks, is probably what's needed to manage stairs and railings constructed for theatrical productions whose requirements cannot incorporate all of the safety details of model building code stair and railing recommendations.

Mr. Gould, please also take a look at the theatrical set stair and rail notes and references I've added above this section and the reference texts added below this section.

Reader comment:

Being a Stage Manager, the safety of performers and crew and to some extent the general public (as they should not be up on the stage) is of paramount importance to me and I am very aware of the 'pit falls' of Health & Safety awareness or lack of it in many venues I have worked in.

I always work from a standpoint of 'do "I" think it is safe' and if the answers is no then something will be done to rectify the problem. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world and other people do 'cut corners' when it comes to their own and others safety, fortunately I am not one for cutting corners and do not tolerate such in others likely. Thank you for the extra advice and your time. - D. Gould 8/9/11


D we're in complete agreement. Unfortunately in theatre applications it doesn't look as if we can count on much protection from code officials.

Recognizing the need to be safe, (and I too am aware of some awful pit-falls), I pose that you're doing about all possible, especially with the added step of focus on informing and cautioning the performers.

No preaching coming from this end. I'd welcome specific suggestions that you think we should add to the topic as they'd surely help others.

Rope or Cable Handrailings?

Question: center post railing at double exit door?

Does a double exit door in a public building having a center post require a railing? -

Reply: need more details: how to send photos and sketches to

Sorry, we don't quite understand the question. Perhaps a photo or sketch (use our CONTACT link).

Railings are provided on landings and stairs. I'm not clear how your question about types of doors affects that condition. If you mean that there are steps down from the exit door then the standard handrailing requirements should apply.

Question: do we need to have a handrail for just 2 steps?

is it necessary to have a handrail for 2 steps in a hair Salon? Going up to the washing area is that in violation of the Bldg. codes? - 5/24/12

Reply: 36-inch or 30-inch rule for step heights that require handrailings


The requirement for handrailings is not dependent on the type of business (Hair Salon in your example) - people can trip and fall down stairs regardless of what business or area the stairs serve. And some stair codes such as CA/OSHA require railings based not on a specific height but on the number of stair treads (4 or more requiring a handrail).

The code requirements for stairs and rails are enforced locally, so you will want to see what your own local building department wants in your case.

But as a general guide, some codes and municipalities will excuse a REQUIREMENT for railings on two or fewer riser stairs or on steps less than 3 feet (or a shorter height of 30" in some codes) above ground.

Our own OPINION is, particularly where one is operating a public business, to put secure handrailings on ANY stairway as anyone can trip and fall, even where just one step is present - a secure properly built and shaped and mounted railing can significantly reduce the risk of injury to someone who is tripping or falling by giving them an opportunity to grab on to something to either arrest the fall or reduce its severity.

Relying on "code compliance" is an understandable way to avoid having to think about a risk, but codes are explicitly described as a MINIMUM standard - and can be exceeded - something worth considering where safety risks are involved.

Question: are handrails required on both sides of a stairway or can they be on just one side? Stair fall report.

My wife fell off the whole length of the stairs [14 all together}. she sustained multiple fractures hip and leg. The stairs are 36" wide, and have only one handrail. Wondering if the construction code requires 2 handrails for stairs that are 36" or more. Because had it been
another handrail there she would try to grab to it, and minimize the damage. - Jacques 6/9/2012


Jacques I am so sorry to read about your wife's extensive stairfall injuries. Indeed if she was walking on the stairs on the side that lacked a handrail that could have contributed to her injuries, in my OPINION, by failing to give her a chance to save herself or reduce or interrupt the fall by grabbing onto a railing.

Indeed in some jurisdictions a rail is recommended or even required for wider stairways - but this is a question that you need to ask your local building department officials, as the local officials are the final word on building code interpretation and enforcement.

Model codes such as the IRC specify that a user should not be more than 30 inches from a handrail, but since a person using a stairway has a body that is greater than six inches in width, such a person, walking up or down a 36" stairway that had a handrail on only one side, could most likely reach and grasp the rail on the other side.

Therefore model building codes have tried to clarify this provision in better language such as the following IBC quotation and the California General Safety Orders Section 3214 quotation:

IRC IBC 1012.8 Intermediate handrails. Stairways shall have intermediate handrails located in such a manner so that all portions of the stairway width required for egress capacity are within 30 inches (762 mm) of a handrail.

§3214. Stair Rails and Handrails [35] (a) Stairways shall have handrails or stair railings on each side, and every stairway required to be more than 88 inches in width shall be provided with not less than one intermediate stair railing for each 88 inches of required width. Intermediate stair railings shall be spaced approximately equal within the entire width of the stairway. Note: Intermediate stair railings may be of single rail construction.

(1) Stairways less than 44 inches in width may have one handrail or stair railing except that such stairways open on one or both sides shall have stair railings provided on the open side or sides.

Question: Methods for raising the top height of a stair handrailing that is too short - in Oregon

In addition, in another complex in Oregon, the insurance company suggests the balcony or stair railing are less than 42 inches high. Railing less than 42 inches high do not adequately protect adults and children from falling.

It is recommended that the insured replace the balcony and stair railings that are less than 42 inches tall with railings exceeding 42 inches in height to reduce fall potential. - Tami 7/23/12

Reply: Methods for Raising the height of an existing metal stair rail or guardrail:


This is also easy to do as an add-on project by welding an extension on top of the existing railing. Take a look at the page top photo in this article and you'll see a different example of an add-on rail. You didn't say how high is the existing railing top but I'm guessing it's 36" or more above the step tread surface.

If that's the case, welding on an additional tier of railing, while it creates multiple horizontal bars, will result in a railing in which both horizontal members are high enough above the step level that the hazard of making the railing "climbable" to a child is minimized - check with your local building officials to be sure they'll approve the addition before actually executing it.

Quoting stair railing heights from the document above:

It seems to me you want to ask your building officials for a height clarification, including a clarification on the maximum handrail height they consider safe (reachable) along a stairway.

If you and the officials are discussing not a stairway railing but guard rails on a balcony or landing, please take a look at our separate article on guardrails at Guardrails on Balconies & Landings where you'll see a 42" minimum guardrail height requirement for buildings newer than 1970. In that article we warn against interpreting building codes to permit stairway handrailings to be placed too high as they could be beyond reach or safe grasp.

Don't confuse the handrail (along a rising or descending stairway) with guardrails (along horizontal walking surfaces such as a balcony or deck).

Keep us posted, and send along photos of the before and after railing improvements - that will permit further comment and may assist others.

Question: what are the reinspection requirements for jobsite guardrails, handrails, & stairways?

5/14/2014 Lawrence Spence said:

I can find all of the OSHA regs for handrails/guardrails but I can't find requirements for re-inspection of the above. Weather, fire, and factory operation conditions can all affect the useful life of handrails/guardrails but nothing is ever mentioned about when they should be re-tested.

Safety departments only say you should not lean on a railing, because it may have been corroided causing failure.

But, retesting before work begins in an area where guard rails provide the major fall safety protection is never mentioned in the quideslines for such work. Any suggestions on this issue?

Reply: OPINION: reinspect by a qualified expert based on any change that would raise question about the safety or condition of the handrail, guardrail, or stairway

Excellent point Lawrence. I've looked at this before and found a few general guidelines but nothing very explicit. I'll research again.

The language I find is found, for example in STICCS (power point) of STICCS: Strengthen Training Infrastructure and Competency in Construction Safety, was created by the Trimmer Foundation under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Susan Harwood Training Grant No. SH-18802-09-60-F-51.
and says (using excavation-fall hazards as an example)

A competent person must make daily inspections of excavations, areas around them and protective systems: Ref. 29 CFR 1926.651(k)
Before work starts and as needed to reinspect,
After rainstorms, high winds or other occurrence which may increase hazards, and
When you can reasonably anticipate an employee will be exposed to hazards.

Or this OSHA reference on scafflolding:

A "competent person" must inspect the scaffolding and, at designated intervals, reinspect it.

My OPINION (I'm not an expert on this point) is that the intent is to recognize that reinspection is needed at the worksite but the timing of that reinspection is undefined and should be made "by a qualified expert" (also undefined). Reinspection should be scheduled when ANY condition or event would lead a reasonable, prudent site manager to recognize that conditions may have affected the safety of the system. Rain, snow, wind, freezing conditions, structural progress, change of use, age or time, or other factors could be examples of those conditions.

To OSHA 5/14/2014

I've contacted OSHA and posed the following question

I publish public safety information at on stair & guardrail standards & fall protection. A question arises from various readers about the need for re-inspection of jobsite guardrails, stairs, handrails as conditions change for any reason.

I've been asked and expressed my OPINION in offering an answer but we and our readers would certainly benefit from and appreciate any guidance from OSHA on when reinspections should be scheduled.

You can see my current response to this question at

If OSHA does not have any reinspection guidelines and would like assistance in drafting one for review & comment I'd be glad to assist (pro bono).

Daniel Friedman
914 489 1635

Contact Information for OSHA in the U.S.

OSHA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, maintains a public contact web page to report unsafe conditions in the workplace or to ask a workplace safety or healtyh-related question.

Below is OSHA's reply to our query - basically OSHA's reply was not helpful

1. did not address our specific question

2. offers "whistle blower" and other contact information.

One might infer from this not-very-useful-reply [shown below] that asking OSHA a real question can be disappointing, or that that OSHA's answer to Lawrence's question about how to determine when a jobsite stair or rail needs to be reinspected is that OSHA is leaving that problem up to employees who are on their own to notice something unsafe - hopefully before a fall or injury.

Reply from OSHA rec'd 5/16/2014 - basically a worthless non-answer!

Thank you for your inquiry to OSHA concerning internet posting / social media. You can find the information you requested in the OSHA resource(s) listed below:

OSHA does not endorse, certify, or recommend any service or product, nor does OSHA review, monitor, or comment on social media and internet postings.

The following provide links to OSHA?s worker rights,
complaint, and whistleblower web pages:
Worker rights and complaint information ?
Whistleblower Program information ?

In addition, the following link to OSHA's frequently asked questions page may also be useful:

To find contact information for your local OSHA area office, please use this weblink -

Please note that the URL(s) provided above are not live links. To access a link, copy the entire URL and paste it into your web browser.

This response is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an official communication
from the U.S. Department of Labor, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Question: last few steps open without railing - does this meet code?

(May 24, 2014) Nick S said:

The wall on the side without the railing ends half way across the 5th stair from the bottom, then then last 4 steps are open into the 1st floor living room. It is 38 inches to the top of the 5th stair that has a wall across half of it, and 30 inches to the top of the 4th stair, which is the first fully open step. Does this meet code for Lancaster, PA? Thanks!

Reply: no

Nick. I wonder if the open stair side was so built because of lack of travel space at the bottom step. Anyway most likely your local building inspector will want a handrail and guard.

If there is lack of travel distance of at least 36" I'd go to a platform and turn design.

Question: resin panel connected to stair handrail - top edge above handrail ok?

(June 24, 2014) Anonymous said:

I have an application where a resin panel is connected to a stair handrail. It satisfies the 50lb load requirement. But the top edge of the panel is 4" above the handrail. Does the top edge of the panel need to be subjected to the 200 lb point load and 50 lb/ft load (separately) since it is raised above the handrail?


We replied to this in a private email as well: You raise an interesting question and one open to OPINION. In my opinion, and I am NOT a code authority, if a fall against a resin panel used as the enclosing part of a guard railing could dislodge it onto occupants below that would be a hazard that would suggest the top be secured to the same loads you cite.

Question: brick stairs ok indoors?

(June 25, 2014) Indoor brick staircase said:

It is legal to have an indoor brick staircase?

Reply: yes


I've seen no regulation that constrains the stair materials so long as the measurements comply with standards.

Question: requirement for handrailing returns along a balcony?

Handrail question on a high rise residential project said:

I'm in Washington state and I have a condition that I'm having trouble finding clarity on using the IBC 2009 code. Situation: We have residential balconies in a high rise mixed use building. We have provided guardrails that meet code. As part of a design decision we have included a "handrail" as part of the glass balcony.

My question is does this handrail, that isn't required by code, still have to follow IBC 1012.6 Handrail extensions, requiring that handrail return to the wall?

I realize that this location is not a stair, but the city inspector has raised the question of snagging, etc. Any help and reference to code sections would be helpful.



If I understand correctly we're discussing handrailings along a balcony - which is not itself a stairway or passage where a handrail is normally required. So the return to wall requirement would seem moot. However, IF in fact people could walk past the end of the extra handrail such that clothing or a purse could be snagged, that might form a trip and fall hazard - though one less extreme than if it were along a stairwell.

In sum I don't think we'll find a return requirement discussed for balconies but we will find it discussed under stairs and landings.

Question: handrail continuity

(Aug 2, 2014) matthew g cutts said:
in a residential town home if i put a railing on the side of the steps that are widest where the stairs are fully enclosed and turn 180 degrees with no landing (4 pie shaped steps) does the railing have to be continuous or can it be 3 separate railings?


I'm not a code official Matthew, but by my reading omission of a landing does not change the requirement for continuity of handrailings. They can be installed in segments but should be continuous through the run of the stair.

Your local code official has final say.

Question: handrails and stairways in a private residence in California

(Aug 12, 2014) Cynthia said:
I have a question about handrails and stairways in a private residence in California. We have a cabin that was built in the 50s and there is an attic that doesnt have a handrail. If it is only used by my family and no improvements are expected is there a building code that says that one must upgrade an old building (I understand the safety issue



A check with your *local* building department will give a legally authoritative answer. Generally you're not required to bring older buildings to current code specifications until an event such as a new building permit or property sale.

The requirement for handrails to an attic depends on the nature of use of the space and the type of access stair. For example a space used for storage and not for occupancy may have a different requirement.

Question: architect finds 1980's handrails lower than current standards

(Nov 3, 2014) Warren said:
As an architect, I see handrails installed as late as the 1980's much lower than is currently permitted - maybe 30" above the nose. Was this permitted by code at the time or were they improperly installed?


Warren, quite possibly yes, depending on the country and the local jurisdiction. Still I would suggest improving handrail of guardrail hight to current standards.

A defense of "it was legal at the time" is a common one but not much use to someone who falls.

I've also seen property managers, responsible for maintaining property safety, in trouble for failing to notify owners of visually obvious hazards.

Question: buy a metal hand railing

(Nov 5, 2014) Anonymous said:
what would be the normal code for a apartment complex 2nd floor balcony handrail in michigan newer apartment

(Dec 1, 2014) Cindy said:
I need to put up a metal 10' hand railing down my basement steps and can't locate where to purchase it.


Cindy any building supply store should carry metal amd/or wood hand-railings as well as mounting brackets.


(Jan 8, 2015) Jeff in NC said:
I have just completed redoing an existing basement staircase in my 90-year-old house. The stairwell is 31 1/2" wide with walls on both sides. It was impossible to widen because of the existing walls and framing. My question is, should I add a handrail, or would this make the stairs less safe by narrowing the passage even more?


Jeff I understand the issue but nonetheless I would not want to see a stairway with no handrailing.

Question: citation for load specifications for handrails on passenger trains

31 March 2015 MechanicalDude said:

I am looking for force and load requirement specifications associated with handrails on passenger trains. I've already looked at CFR Section 49 and can't find any load requirements - only size and location of rails. Any ideas?


Interestinq question MD - I haven't seen a spec for passenger trains - it's a bit off my rails.

I suggest contacting the people who are concerned with rail safety, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration, Passenger Rail Division - see

You'll have to do a little digging as some of the rail standards will pertain to workers, bridges, walkways.
Start with
which discusses securement of handrail to locomotive body

a special memo 15 June 1998 quoted below followed by railroad car handrailing research citations:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Railroad Administration

Reply to Att. of: MP&E 98-48

Date: June 15, 1998 Reply to Att. of: MP&E 98-48

Subject: Securement of Handrail to the Locomotive Carbody North American Cab Structure

From: Edward R. English Director, Office of Safety Assurance and Compliance

To: Regional Administrators, Deputy Regional Administrators,
Motive Power & Equipment Specialists and Inspectors

Some locomotives having the wide body North American cab configuration has the upper end of the front vertical handrail not properly secured to the carbody. The Safety Appliance regulation, Section 231.30(e) (1) ( I ) states in part that each vertical handhold... be securely fastened to the locomotive with one half (1⁄2) inch or larger bolts or rivets....

Some locomotives have the upper end of the front vertical handhold bolted to a bracket, welded to that section of the carbody that comprises the outside of the front sand reservoir. Although there appears to be adequate strength in the welded bracket, this is not permitted because the regulation specifically requires that the handhold be securely fastened with a bolt or rivet.

However, FRA has permitted welding of some permanent fixtures on locomotives to which safety appliances are mechanically fastened. The welding was made under quality controlled conditions with a full enclosure penetration weld of the fixture to the locomotive, using modern shop welding practices which provide 100 percent full strength requirements of the joint. This condition, if found, is not to be taken as a defective condition, but should be brought to the railroad’s attention for corrective action.  

- U.S. DOT, FRA, Retrieved 1 April 2015, original source

Railroad car handrail safety research:

Handrail extension requirements for ramps are also illustrated at RAMPS, ACCESS.


(May 18, 2015) Rob Craven said:
i have a gentle sloping area leading to the back yard. I would like to put in steps (currently walk down a grassy slippery area). A handrail would greatly detract from the landscaping. What are my options?



Check with your local building department about what they will accept. For example you may be able to descend the hill in a series of long stepped walkway sectrions, each of just one step down. You'll need a sketch of the total stair length (run) and total stair rise (height change) over that distance to make sense of any design.


(May 21, 2015) Becky said:
Is Coffman's C6040 hand rail Life Safety compliant?



Regardless of whether or not a flexible rope or cable type "handrail" is code approved or listed, in my OPINION (which is just that) no flexible wavy handrailing is particularly secure. I understand that in some locations such as in the descending narrow high-rise-step stairwell of Goodrich Castle a nearly-vertical rope is all you're going to get, but generally, ick.


(June 1, 2015) Bill said:
home with 5 raiser is a hand rail required??


almost certainly yes.

In the article above you'll see a detailed answer to your question at

"When Are Handrails Required? How many steps, what total rise height requires a handrail?"

let me know if questions remain.


(Aug 5, 2015) Question about metal handrail design said:

Releasing you from all liability, I'd like to ask you some questions about building metal ADA approved handrails on both sides of a 48" wide concrete stair walkway with (6)ea. 36" long x 5 1/2" rise steps intersecting at one end with a public sidewalk;
1.) Do I need to include intermediate rails on both sets of handrails?
2.) If intermediate rails are required, can they be horizontal beams typical to the top handrail welded in between my posts?
3.) Do I need to include vertical slats in between posts with less than 4" spaces between them?
4.) Do I need to include 12" extensions at the ends of both handrails?
5.) If 12" extensions are required, can I go outward at the ends of both the handrails at 90 degrees with them?



For an authoritative answer you'll want to consult a design professional who knows your site specifics as well as consulting your local building department.

From the article above (there are exceptions to this)

Stairways shall have handrails on each side, and every stairway required to be more than 88 inches (2235 mm) in width shall be provided with not less than one intermediate handrail for each 88 inches (2235 mm) or required width. Intermediate handrails shall be spaced approximately equally across with the entire width of the stairway.

Handrails must conform to graspability rules. Your "horizontal beam" doesn't sound graspable to me.

The requirement for balusters ("vertical slats") with 4" spacing is a child safety feature needed along the open sides of stairs, not along a mid-stair handrailing nor along a handrailing attached to an enclosed wall.

4. Yes.

5. I don't understand.


(Aug 13, 2015) Neil Rogers said:
Hello Simple question My employer has a number of old buildings. In two of these buildings (built 1920s) or before there are wooden handrails that protect from an open stairwell but which at 30inches above each stair are less than the current Regulations for new buildings and installation ie at least 900mm.

Our buildings are open to members of the public and occasionally (but not regularly_) to children and young people. In another building (some years ago) a similar handrail had an elevated parallel metal bar installed to bring it up to a safer height. I would like to treat these other handrails in the same way but can anyone advise on the likely requirement - it has never been picked up as an issue by a Building Inspector. Thankyou



Simply put, of course you can modify an existing handrailing to bring it to modern standards of height, space out from the wall, continuity, and graspability. But it might be less costly in the case you describe to remove the old and install new handrailings.


(Sept 7, 2015) Break in handrail said:
I would like to know what's the rule for railing in a theatre where you need to break the handrailing to enter a row?

(Oct 14, 2015) Corey said:
Do i need a handrail if steps are entirely enclosed by block wall with a railing fastened on top on both sides

(Nov 6, 2015) Anonymous said:
What are the requirements for a hand rail termination when there is short bottom step (less than 1/2 the riser height )


Anon this sounds like a trick question. A short bottom step - is itself a trip hazard that's not going to be eliminated by a proper handrail, though the handrail might help someone who is tripping.


2015/12/27 Arlette Rachel Twersky said:
Is there a way to safely install a grab bar on a door frame at the top of a staircase? The hand rail runs out before the person can safely finish the top step and get their balance coming through the doorway from the livingroom, seven stairs below, to the kitchen. Also. Would a wooden grab rail such as those built for out door decks be acceptable? I am an occupational therapist.


IN my opinion a grab bar, to be safe, should be bolted to structural framing; be sure your grab bar is not bolted just to trim or drywall.

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