How to Test the Strength of Guardrails and Handrails

Written by nicola gordon-thaxter
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How to Test the Strength of Guardrails and Handrails
The strength of handrails and guardrails need to be tested regularly. (ULTRA.F/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Handrails and guardrails are potential lifesavers. Handrails are used to give guidance when walking up stairs, guardrails prevent people from falling over the open edge of elevated surfaces such as cliff-side pathways. Of course, such important safety equipment must be tested rigorously before installation. There are two ways to test the strength of handrails; one by using a wedge and hydraulics; the other by using an L-shaped handrail tester made up of a lever and a mounting portion on the lever arm. Once tested, the handrail can be installed but it is recommended that it is periodically tested throughout its life to ensure it is still fit for the purpose.

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Things you need

  • Handrail tester
  • Torque wrench

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  1. 1

    Hold the handrail tester in front of you by the longer section which is the lever arm. The other end is the mounting portion which should be pointed at the handrail.

  2. 2

    Slide the mounting portion of the tester underneath the handrail.

  3. 3

    Pump the lever arm and apply force to the handrail.

  4. 4

    Measure the force on the lever arm with a torque wrench. The amount of force the handrail should be able to take depends on the use of the handrail; domestic and residential handrails will not need to take as much force as public handrails. Domestic rails will need to take at least 0.36kN/m and public handrails at least 1.5 kN/m. Here, kN stands for kilonewton, which is a unit of force; m stands for meter.

    How to Test the Strength of Guardrails and Handrails
    Measure the force with a torque wrench. (torque wrench in box image by Christopher Dodge from

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