Workplace accidents cost businesses money, and as an employer, it is important you regularly safety audit all parts of your business to make sure you are providing a safe working environment. One part of your business where accidents can easily happen is your stairs. Handrails are an integral part of stair safety, so when was the last time you took a closer look at the ones on your workplace stairs?

Handrail Law

It is assumed that your work building already complies with Australian building standards for handrails. However, as part of your initial safety audit, it would not hurt to pull out the measuring tape and check.

There are two main specifications when it comes to Australian building standards regarding handrails:

  1. If the width of the stairs are more than 1000 mm, then you need to have a handrail on each side of the stairs. However, if there is a fixed structure at a distance not greater than 100 mm from the stairway stile, stairways and stairway landing should be provided with guardrailing on any exposed side.
  2. The handrail for stairs must "have a smooth continuous top surface throughout the length of each stairway flight and have no obstruction on or above them that will tend to break a handhold."

While your handrails may comply with the letter of the law, there are a few additional steps you can take when it comes to handrail safety.

Handrails and Your Employees

Just because your handrails are in place does not mean they will automatically protect your employees from falling, and there are a couple of steps you can take to tighten up this area.

Firstly, look at the design of the handrail you have installed. How big are they? Handrails that are too round are not comfortable to grip, and your employees are less likely to use them. You need to have a handrail in place that allows the hand to take a power grip position, as this is good protection for people who are moving on the stairwell.

Secondly, reinforce the need for employees to use handrails during regular safety briefings. Make them aware of why handrails are in place, and do everything you can to encourage their use.

After performing your safety audit, talk to your local steel fabricator if you are not comfortable with the current design of your handrails. It is up to you to make sure your employees are protected from falls while they are at work, and a steel fabricator can specifically design and make a handrail for your building that will help you achieve this goal.