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2/8/2013 12:03:05 PM
In IRC 2012, R3126.96.36.199 Grip-size, it states: "All required handrails shall be of one of the following types or provide equivalent graspability"
R311.7.8 says that "Handrails shall be provided on at least one side of each continuous run of treads or flights with four or more risers"
Question: if a staircase has handrails on both sides - the wall side and the open side - does section R3188.8.131.52 apply to both handrails? Or only to the handrail that is "required", meaning that the handrail sitting on top of a guard on the open side does not need to meet the graspability requirements in R3184.108.40.206, because it is, technically, "not required"?
-- G. B.
2/8/2013 2:09:48 PM
I would agree that the required hand rail has to meet the graspability and all other requirements. The "extra" hand rail would not.
2/8/2013 3:36:51 PM
Does this pass the common sense test though?
Suppose a visitor in the house uses the staircase and happens to use the 'extra' handrail on the open side of the staircase, slips and falls. In court, builder argues that that handrail didn't need to meet code graspability requirements because it was an 'extra' handrail and the victim should have used the (near identically looking) handrail on the other side of the staircase, which is the required one.
If you were a juror in this hypothetical scenario, whom would you side with?
I doubt the code intended for this interpretation, and should probably be rewritten to read "All installed handrails " instead of "All required handrails ".
Is there any case law you know of?
2/10/2013 3:28:16 PM
the Code has always required that should you install an item that is not required by Code, then it shall be installed according to the Code requirements.
For example, if you have a deck that is 20" above the adjacent grade you are not required to install guards and balusters. But should you install guards and baluster then you have to do so per the code requirements so that a 4" sphere does not pass between the balusters.
Just my humble opinion ....
Gary"If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you find the time to fix it?"
2/13/2013 1:28:55 PM
I think that Gary is spot on. When an indiviual begins a stumble of fall, they are going to reach for what ever they unconsciously sense to help them gain stability. I would require that both handrails comply.
I provide a lot of opinions for attornies in the injury litigation field with emphasis on stairway injuries. With this experience I would rcommend that every building inspector read, The Staircase: Studies of Hazards, Falls, and Safer Design, by John Templer. Particularly the portions of his writings where he discusses the physiological and behavioral relationship between humans and stairs and walkways, the question of gait and slippery surfaces, and the various types of falls and the injuries that result.
Handrails requirements and the 3/8" inch variance between treads and risers really make sense after reading his studies.
Hope this helps.
2/13/2013 2:46:12 PM
Thanks. Though I had phrased the question theoretically, there is of course a concrete case behind it. (Fortunately, not an actual injury case!) FWIW, I'd like to share the responses I received after voicing my concern that the handrail may not meet R3220.127.116.11 requirements.
The builder said "this is not a handrail, it's a guardrail and as such handrail requirements do not apply." Repairing the handrail could incur considerable expense at this stage of construction.
The local town official who is charged with enforcing the code said: "we only look at the code compliance of the handrail that's required by code. If there's another handrail, we consider it 'ornamental' and do not inspect it for code compliance."