Handrail graspability requirements

Written by
Abraham Jaros
Updated on Thursday, Sep 7, 2023

People often pick out a handrail based on the aesthetic appeal. It’s just one more design element in the building, and they want it to work well with the rest of the design.

While this is understandable, it’s also important to consider the graspability of the handrail. This is especially true in commercial settings, workplaces and public spaces. After all, the handrail isn’t there to accent the design or to add a nice splash of color. It’s there to keep people safe and prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

Below are some shape and grip size requirements that should be met:

  • For traditional round rails, the diameter should be between 1.25 inches and 2 inches.
  • For an ogee shape often used with metal rails, the widest dimension should be no more than 2.25 inches.
  • For a rectangular rail, the perimeter measurements are critical. They should not be under 4 inches or greater than 6.25 inches. If the perimeter is excessively large — greater than 6 inches — then a finger recess should be built into the design to give people something to grasp even without trying to wrap their fingers around the entire rail.
  • For an oblate rail, which is typical made of wood, the widest dimension is the same as the ogee rail above: 2.25 inches.

These safety guidelines should be followed to ensure that no one gets injured in department stores, apartment buildings, government buildings, commercial spaces, restaurants and any other buildings where public safety could be an issue. This could include homes where guests are present.

Those who fall and are injured due to inadequate rails must know all of the legal options at their disposal.

Source: Inspectapedia, “Handrailing Graspability," accessed Jan. 25, 2018

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