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Last edited 16 Sep 2020
Railings can be made from a very wide range of materials:
Railings differ from balusters which are made of stone, wood or metal, which are usually rounded or vase-shaped and support a rail or coping in a balustrade. They are common in classical forms of architecture. The balusters of a stairway together with handrail is known by the term banister.
NB See SCOSS Alert Dec 2019, Glass balustrades may pose a serious risk to safety.
Guard rails tend to be a restrictive form of railing, and aim to create the protective limitation of a boundary as opposed to handrails which aim to provide support. Many public spaces are fitted with guardrails as a means of preventing access and maintaining safety.
- The spaces between railings should be close enough together to prevent a 100 mm sphere from passing through.
- Horizontal rails should be avoided to prevent climbing.
See also Guarding.
Approved Document K requires that:
- The top of the handrail should be positioned 900-1000 mm from the pitch line or floor.
- The handrail may form the top of a guarding as long as the heights are matched.
- A handrail should be provided on both sides of stairs that are 1 m wide or wider.
- If stairs are more than 2m wide, then they should be divided into flights of no less than 1,000mm.
- Handrails should be 50-75 mm away from the wall to which they are attached.
- Circular handrails should be 32-50 mm in diameter.
- Non-circular handrails should be 50 mm wide and 39 mm deep, usually with rounded edges.
- Where there is a full guarding, and a second (lower) handrail, it should be 600 mm above the pitch line of the steps of ramp surface.
- Handrails should not project into an access route.
- Handrails should contrast visually without being highly reflective.
- Handrails should be slip-resistant and not liable to become too hot or cold to the touch.
- Handrails should continue, at least 300mm beyond the top and bottom of the stairs and should be finished in a way that reduces the risk of clothing being caught.
- Handrails on one or both sides should be provided for ramps less than 1 m wide.
- Ramps wider than 1 m should have handrails on both sides.
- Handrails are not needed for ramps 600 mm or less in height.
- Handrails should be positioned 900-1000 mm above the surface of the ramp.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Access control in buildings.
- Approved Document K.
- Collective restraint systems.
- Health and safety.
- Hoarding for construction sites.
- Newel post.
- Work at height regulations.
- Wrought iron spindles for external stairs
 External references
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