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The Importance of Safety Handrails
Mostly handrails are noticed less but important part of a building's layout. When properly installed and maintained, they increase the welcoming feel to seniors, persons with disabilities and others with mobility issues. Handrails are most frequent physical interaction of a visitor with the building structure and can set the tone for the person's experience with the facility they are about to enter.
Inside a building, handrails provide needed support on staircases and in hallways and common spaces. Handrails are a key safety device in the prevention of slips and falls. Most people normally associate them with stairways and elevated surfaces, but they also are very important on level surfaces as a provider of additional support. Handrails also make a facility more accessible.
A mandatory inclusion in wheelchair access ramps, handrails help those utilizing mobility enhancement devices safely navigate entry into facilities which are higher than street level. They also provide important support for seniors and other people who have a difficult time walking. Handrails play pedestrian management role at large events by channelling guests in an orderly fashion through desired entry points.
They are an important safety consideration on wide staircases. Additional railings must be erected if the staircase is more than 88 inches wide, but operators of arenas and other public venues install them in much narrower areas to encourage guests moving in opposite directions to use separate sides. They also ensure a safety point is close by for those needing it.
There are several important safety considerations to keep in mind when choosing and maintaining handrail systems. The first is to make sure they are kept free of locked bicycles. The site owner must be vigilant in keeping the protected area free of snow, ice, and debris which can obstruct the pathway, increase the slippery feel of the handrail and heighten the chances of an accident.
Handrail placement must also facilitate easy use by small children. In areas where small children are likely to use the stairs, an initial unit should be placed no more than 28 inches high, as measured from the floor to the top. Mandatory rails at a height between 34 and 38 inches must be present for adults.
Handrails must also extend beyond the top and bottom of a flight of stairs. While they naturally have to be interrupted at each floor, handrails must be closed off at each end to prevent objects from catching on them and to allow a hand continuous access to the railing so people with walking difficulties are never without needed support.
The quality of grip is another factor frequently ignored by facility designers. Railings need to be able to be securely grasped by a complete range of hand sizes, and quickly, in the event of a fall, so they cannot be too large or they will not be easily gripped.
The recommended width range for railings is between four and six and one-quarter inches in diameter. If the grip area is too small it is liable to put the hand in constant contact with the railing supports underneath, meaning the hand will need to be frequently off the rail in order to move past each support. This increases the chances of a fall.
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