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Do you need handrails on both sides of your stairs?

24 June 2021

When building a multi-storey home one of the most important aspects to consider are your stairs and the safety precautions you must take. One such area of safety is the handrails. Believe it or not, there are many people who still ask whether handrails are a necessity for their project. The short answer is yes… but you do not strictly need to have two handrails on your staircase. However, you may wish to consider it once taking in all the factors. Let us explain a little further.

Guidelines set out by MBIE, state that where a staircase within a home has more than two or three risers, a continuous handrail needs to be installed on at least one side.

Interestingly enough, statistics provided by ACC showed some eye-opening statistics around commercial and residential stairways and their injuries. The report showed a staggering $134 million per year in claims for accidents or injuries resulting from stairway use. This has steadily doubled in the past decade, even with the lockdown in the last 12 months. What is most interesting about these figures though, is that 66 per cent of these claims were from injuries sustained within the home.

Which is why handrails should be top of mind when building your staircase within your new home. You should also consider things such as, the age of the residents, the look and feel of the home and the placement and function of the stairs. As well as looking to ensure that the handrails you choose meet the regulations in terms of being graspable.

Why is this important? Well, those statistics we mentioned earlier also showed that an overwhelming 84 per cent of the claims made within a home staircase injury, were caused where the injured party lost their balance, stumbled, or twisted. While the statistics do not show all conditions of the accident, one can conclude that having two handrails could very likely have been of benefit in the vast majority of these cases.

Showing both sides for the argument, however, there are negatives to having a handrail on either side. Most notable is the reduction of walking space for people utilising the stairs. However, a little less clearance seems like a small inconvenience for the knowledge of the user’s safety.  With graspable handrails generally having a small size, the extra space required is not a lot compared to a typical stairwell width.

While one handrail is enough to satisfy the regulations and guidelines, having two can help to create a more stable and accessible thoroughfare for residents and their visitors. So, when it comes down to it, having two handrails is a personal choice, whether it be for safety or design purposes, it is up to the homeowner and their builder as to whether to install them.

If you would like to discuss your new building project or obtain a quote, then please give us a call on 0800 896 500.

Please note that our products are primarily aimed at new residential and commercial building projects and as such, we are unable to assist with handrail or balustrade installations to existing homes unless you are also replacing your staircase.

The MBIE rules referred to in this article relate to residential staircases only; note that if your project is a commercial building or requires an accessible route then different rules apply.

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