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OSHA Requirements for Handrail Height

Updated March 18, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has put guidelines into place to ensure our safety. Businesses and builders must follow these guidelines or face possible fines. The guidelines include required height for the handrails that are required to be placed on staircases, walls, near door openings and on ships.

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Stairway Handrails

Stair rails that have been installed prior to March 15, 1991 should be at least 36 inches in height. Those installed after this date must be between 30 and 36 inches. These rails are not always approved to be used as handrails, however. For stair rails being used as a handrail or separately installed handrails, OSHA requires an installed height of at least 36 inches, but no more than 37 inches.

Floor and Wall Openings

Railings that are used to guard against falling into a floor or wall opening have their own set of requirements. These handrails must consist of a top and an intermediate rail. The top rail should be 42 inches high with the intermediate rail halfway between the ground and the top rail. The handrail portion of these railings should be between 30 and 34 inches.

Gangway Handrails

A gangway onto a ship requires handrails to be at least 33 inches high. This measurement should be made perpendicular from the ramp up to the handrail. A mid-rail is required as well.

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About the Author

Kimberly Turtenwald began writing professionally in 2000. She has written content for various websites, including Lights 2 You, Online Consultation, Corpus Personal Injury and more. Turtenwald studied editing and publishing at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

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