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Everything You Need to Know About ADA Handrails & Guardrails

Everything You Need to Know About ADA Handrails & Guardrails

14 Jun 2022 By Admin

Handrails, guardrails, or railings? Whatever you choose to call them, the fact remains that they are all designed with two primary purposes. The first is to prevent people from slipping or falling from elevated surfaces, and the second is to aid balance and movement for individuals with mobility issues or disabilities that may otherwise make it difficult to climb stairs or navigate a ramp without a handrail. If you are installing handrails or guardrails at your place of business, then it is important to make sure that they are ADA compliant. An experienced ADA concrete contractor can help you meet all the necessary requirements.

Let’s look at some of the key questions you might have when it comes to handrails and guardrails.

Why Are Handrails & Guardrails Important?

To put it in the simplest terms, handrails and guardrails are essential for safety. Handrails allow people to keep their balance on stairs, ramps, balconies, mezzanines, and other platforms, while guardrails help prevent accidental falls from those same areas. Although the two words are often used interchangeably, they do perform two different functions.

Preventing falls and trips is a huge deal for businesses. Falls, trips, and slips are actually the second most common cause of fatal work-related injuries, behind transportation-related accidents! It is estimated that in 2019, there were 880 employee deaths and 244,000 injuries requiring time off because of slips, trips, and falls. Most of those could have been prevented had the appropriate handrails and guardrails been in place per OSHA guidelines.

We already have plenty of reason to invest in handrails and guardrails, and we haven’t even mentioned the ADA aspect yet! That’s another excellent reason to work with an ADA concrete contractor to get compliant. ADA lawsuits can be expensive, and in California, violations are also considered civil rights violations under the UNRUH act. Can your business afford to risk penalties from OSHA, ADA, and UNRUH for the sake of not investing in proper handrails and guardrails? For most businesses, the answer is likely to be a resounding NO! Get in touch with a qualified ADA concrete contractor sooner rather than later and protect your business from potential lawsuits!

Are There Different Types of Handrails?

As we have established above, handrails are not really the same thing as guardrails. Handrails aim primarily to promote safe movement rather than saving lives the way guardrails might. There are two main types of handrails that you may encounter:

  • Handrails that run the length of a staircase, ramp, or walkway
  • Handrails to provide support for someone that needs to sit or stand in that spot, for example, grab rails inaccessible restrooms

Is There a Specific Height Requirement For Handrails?

As with any fixture in your building, the handrails you install must be up to code. With so many different legislations, some of which vary from one state to another, it is crucial to get advice from an experienced ADA concrete contractor. You will need to adhere to CAL-OSHA guidance as well as ADA standards for accessible design. It is worth noting that OSHA will trump ADA requirements if making an adjustment for disabled individuals would result in a safety concern. However, in the case of handrails, the two overlap when it comes to the height requirement, making it easy to satisfy both sets of regulations. The ADA requires handrails to be a minimum of 34 inches and a maximum of 38 inches from the floor. In comparison, OSHA guidelines require handrails to be at least 34 inches from the floor, and guardrails should be a minimum of 42 inches in height.

Are There Other Requirements for Handrails?

Height is not the only requirement when it comes to making sure that your handrails are ADA compliant. Working with an experienced ADA concrete contractor with the expert knowledge required to meet all standards is important. There are many points that need to be taken into consideration, but some of the basics include:

  • All stairs and ramps with a rise of more than 6 inches require handrails on both sides
  • Handrails must run continuously along the full length of the stair or ramps, without interruption from newel posts or other obstructions
  • If the handrails are circular, they must be between 1.25 and 2 inches in diameter
  • If handrails are not round, they must have the edges rounded and a cross-section measuring 2.25 inches
  • A clearance of at least 1.5 inches between the handrail and the wall is required to avoid bruising or scraping the knuckles

If you need help to install ADA compliant handrails and guardrails or to upgrade any other aspect of your building’s exterior to meet ADA standards, an ADA concrete contractor can help you come up with an appropriate plan of action.


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Why Wait to be "Forced" into ADA Compliance. If you are a public business or public property owner, save money, lawsuits, time and headaches by being prepared and avoiding it all in the first place. It’s time to call in the ADA pros. Use Protrk, an ADA construction expert, to Get it Done Right Prior to Forced Compliance. 

Call 415-813-9877 today or visit www.protrkconstruction.com for more details.


Being involved in ADA design and construction has given me the opportunity to help a lot of business owners and commercial property owners prevent costly ADA compliant lawsuits.

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Owner & Founder Protrk®


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