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Stairway Accidents and Handrail Graspability

by Zoe Gaik

Architectural Forensic Associate

RGA Design Forensics

Many stairs do not have handrails that can be construed as “graspable”. In the event of a loss of balance or trip and fall on a stairway, the victim often may attempt to steady themselves by grasping a handrail, which may in fact not be a handrail that the user can get their hand around. Handrails are required to be continuously graspable for their entire length (IBC 1014.4), in many states in the country.

What is a graspable handrail? It is a handrail that meets the certain requirements in the IBC (International Building Code), or a local adoption such as the Florida Building Code. These certain requirements have to do with the profile of the handrail, and there are only two options to choose from.

Type I handrails have a circular cross-section with a diameter of 1-1/2" or less, or a non-circular perimeter dimension of more than 4" but no greater than 6-1/4".

Type II handrails exceed the 6-1/4" perimeter dimension, but provide a “finger recess” as explained in section 1014.3.2 of the 2021 IBC.

Handrails are a key component in stairway safety, and are often overlooked in premises liability incidents. Even if the Plaintiff did not try to grasp the handrail, you could still have a viable case.

Give us a call to talk about the specifics of your case at (813) 226-2220 or visit our website at for more information.


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