Accessible handrails in corridor



The correct use of handrails makes a building more accessible. It allows people to move independently throughout a building and reduces the likelihood of a fall. Equally, rails can be used to provide sensory clues for those navigating around different areas of a building.

Handrails should be fitted along main communication routes, lifts, staircases and in departmental corridors as required. See also Core Elements HBN 00-04 Circulation and Community Spaces

Using contrasting colour on surfaces and features in a building can help those with visual difficulties navigate their immediate surroundings. A handrail or grabrail that contrasts in colour with the wall behind will make it more visible.

Recommended standards:

  • To help people identify handrails more easily, use a colour contrast with that of the surrounding wall.
    To meet recommendations relating to colour contrast, it is important to consider the relative Light Reflectance Values (LRV) of the adjacent surface colours. A difference in LRV of 30 points provides sufficient contrast.

To help with mobility, handrails should be fitted along main circulation routes, department corridors, staircases and along ramps.

Recommended standards:

  • Promote independent mobility by placing handrails in key areas such as corridors, stairs and lift walls. If the space is wide enough, handrails should be placed to both sides of a corridor or stair.
  • Ensure a minimum distance of 1500mm between the inside faces of handrails to allow for two-way flow of people. Where the corridor is obstructed by columns and the like, the clear width can be reduced to 1200mm.
  • Make sure the space between the handrail and the adjacent wall is between 60 and 75mm. This avoids knuckles being scraped along the wall and allows the forearm to be rested on the rail without danger of getting trapped.
  • Handrails with wall protection can be combined as one. Where used, there needs to be a minimum 50mm vertical clearance between the handrail and wall protection to make sure grip is not compromised.
  • Wall-mounted grabrails can be used to help wheelchair users steady themselves or to move in or out of a wheelchair. These should be used in places such as sanitary spaces, in line with relevant guidance. Please see Health Building Note 00-10 Part C: Sanitary assemblies for further information.

Handrails and grabrails should be fixed securely and at heights that are convenient for all building users.

Recommended standards:

  • Fix handrails within a range of 900-1000mm along corridors, ramps and flights of steps. On stair landings this can increase to 900-1100mm.
  • In children’s departments consider providing a lower handrail, fixed 600mm above the floor surface.
  • Fix handrails and door handles at different heights. This will stop them from clashing when doors open against walls with handrails.
  • Handrails and grabrails fitted to walls should be strong enough to support a person’s weight when they raise or lower themselves.
  • The clear distance between handrail and wall should be between 60-75mm
  • Design fixings should allow for continuous movement along the handrail.

Install handrails that are firm, comfortable, provide good support and are warm to the touch. Ideally handrails should be round or oval as these are comfortable for most users. Square or rectangular handrails should be avoided as these can be uncomfortable to grip. Reference should be made to Approved Document M of the Building Regulations and subsequent Amendments.

Recommended Standards:

  • Cross-section diameter of the handrail should be 40-45mm in line Building Regulations.
  • Handrails need to be smooth with minimum joints and without any abrasive elements. Use of an elongated oval shape which has a broad, flatter upper surface offers more hand and forearm support.
  • Handrails should not be too hot or cold to touch, manufactured with a surface finish that keeps the handrail surface temperature as close to the ambient room temperature as possible. This can be achieved by using a non-conductive material such as a polyester powder-coated finish or wood.
  • Ensure the end of handrails do not cause an injury hazard or obstruct passers-by.
  • Avoid recessed handrails as they are difficult to lean on for support.
  • Handrails should have rounded edges and project at least 300mm beyond the top and bottom of steps and ramps. This helps building users steady themselves when using the stairs.
  • Allow sufficient separation between handrails and radiators to prevent users accidently touching the radiator or the handrail becoming too hot.
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