Ask the Expert

Ask the Expert: Handrail Installation

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking about the recommendations for handrail installation. See what the experts had to say.

Q: I have two exterior steps at 10″ ht then a landing then two more steps at 9″ ht. The width is 14ft and no handrails exist. How can I recommend handrails be installed in this area?

Pursuant to OSHA’s walking-working surfaces rules, employees exposed to an unprotected side or edge of a stairway landing that is 4 feet or more above a lower level must be protected by a guardrail or stair rail system.

Each flight of stairs having at least 3 treads and at least 4 risers must be equipped with stair rail systems and handrails as follows:


Stair Width
EnclosedOne Open SideTwo Open SidesWith Earth Built Up on Both Sides
Less than 44 inchesAt least one handrailOne stair rail system with handrail on open sideOne stair rail system each open side 
44 inches to 88 inchesOne handrail on each enclosed sideOne stair rail system with handrail on open side and one handrail on enclosed sideOne stair rail system with handrail on each side 
Greater than 88 inchesOne handrail on each enclosed side and one intermediate handrail located in the middle of the stairOne stair rail system with handrail on open side, one handrail on enclosed side, and one intermediate handrail located in the middle of the stairOne stair rail system with handrail on each open side and one intermediate handrail located in the middle of the stair 
Exterior stairs less than 44 inches   One handrail on at least one side

The width of the stair must be clear of all obstructions except handrails. Stairways are defined as risers and treads that connect one level with another and includes any landings and platforms in between those levels.

Without knowing more about your stairway, it appears that you should recommend that one stair rail system with handrail on each open side be installed along with one intermediate handrail located in the middle of the stair if both sides of the stairway are open and the stair width is, as you stated, greater than 88 inches. However, please consult the table above to verify the requirements for your particular stairway.

Additionally, these requirements apply to occupational safety and health in both public and private sector workplaces. If the stairway provides public access, other requirements may apply. Consult your local building codes for further information.