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AS1657 Handrail / Guard Rail Requirements


A Hand or Guardrail is required to provide edge protection at the edge of a floor, platform or walkway. Handrail is rail that provides a handhold on a platform, walkway or stairway. Guardrail can be designed to be suitable for use as a handrail.

General dimensions – AS1657 requirements

  • The height of the top of a handrail above the floor or the nosing of a stair tread, must be between 900mm and 1100mm. Where fall from height is significant it is recommended to increase the height of the guardrail to at least 1000 mm.
  • Where circular metal handrails are provided, external diameter shall be 30mm to 65mm.
  • Unrestricted movement of the user’s hand along the upper surface with a minimum hand clearance of 50mm to a wall (for example), with no sharp edges or other features that could cause injury to the user.
  • A Guardrail must consist of a top rail and a knee or mid rail both parallel to the floor, walkway, stairs or platform. Distance between the knee / mid rail and the floor to be ≤ 560mm. Where a toeboard is used the distance between the mid or knee rail and top of the toeboard to be ≤ 450mm

Toeboard or Kick plate

  • A toeboard must be installed if there is gap greater than 10mm from a permanent structure e.g. a mezzanine floor, or if falling objects creates a hazard to personnel accessing the area below.
  • Any gap between the underside of the toeboard and the walkway surface must be no more than 10mm. The top of the toeboard must be minimum 100mm above the floor.

Load ratings

  • Guardrails must be designed to sustain a single acting force of 600 N (61.2kg) or 350 N (35.7kg) per lineal metre acting outwards (horizontally) or downwards (vertically) at any part of the system and typically tested at the mid-point between supports (e.g. posts). No part of the hand or guardrail system can deflect elastically by more than 100mm under the imposed load.
  • Other loads to be consider when designing the system are forces imposed by wind loading.
  • Any part of the toeboard must withstand a horizontal force of 100N (10.2kg), with no elastic deflection greater than 30mm for the toeboard and no gap greater than 10mm to be exposed between the inside face of the toeboard and the edge.

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