In Oregon, several authorities determine where and how you must install handrails. The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, outlines the necessary dimensions and locations of handrails to ensure nondiscriminatory access in public places and private places of business. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, oversees construction standards, including handrail regulations, for workplaces. Finally, Oregon's state building codes prescribe handrail regulations to comply with national standards.
ADA Handrail Requirements
The Americans with Disabilities Act specifically outlines the use of handrails along ramps and stairways. Any staircase or ramp with a rise greater than 6 inches or a horizontal length of at least 72 inches must have handrails on each side. As an exception, ramps to street curbs and those immediately adjacent to seating areas do not need handrails.
Any legally mandated railings must either be continuous or, if there are any segmented sections, handrails must overlap by at least 12 inches. They must be continuous with the floor surface along their entire length. All handrails must have a gap of 1 1/2 inches from the wall. The top of the handrail must be located between 34 and 38 inches above the ramp surface or the stair nosing (the edge of a stair tread that projects over the riser).
The handrail's ends must either be rounded or smoothly meet the floor, wall or post. In the case of stairways, all gripping surfaces must be clear of interruptions, such as newel posts or other obstructions.
OSHA Handrail Requirements
Oregon OSHA requires handrails around any open-sided stairways, floors, platforms or other surfaces more than 4 feet above the ground. In addition, any surfaces close to dangerous equipment, regardless of height, must have handrails.
All stairways with at least four risers must have standard handrails or standard stair railings. Standard stair railings only differ from standard handrails in their height (30 to 34 inches) above the stair nosings. The standard handrail measures 42 inches above the floor or platform. It must have a smooth and continuous surface.
In addition, Oregon OSHA requires that railings have an intermediate rail, or midrail, approximately half as high as the handrail, as well as a toe board (a board built around a platform to prevent people from falling off) of at least 4 inches that extends vertically from the floor or platform.
Building Code Handrail Requirements
Chapter 11 of the 2010 Oregon Structural Specialty Code addresses accessibility issues, including the use of handrails. The code requires that curb ramps have either handrails, guardrails or sloped sides, with a maximum angle of 1 to 12--vertical rise to horizontal run.
Any walks with a slope greater than 1 to 20, or 5 percent, must have handrails. These handrails must be continuous, except at points of access to the ramp. They must also extend 12 inches beyond the ramp's edge at each end. Stairs must have continuous handrails on either side that extend at least 12 inches beyond both the top- and bottom-most stair risers.