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Stairway Intermediate Handrail

Stairway Intermediate Handrail

New postby mtCDCcb on Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:21 pm

Our building recently put in an exterior stairway that is 10' width. The stairway is secondary access to the bottom floor of our two story building. It is outside and not a required means of egress. The required width for the stairway based on occupancy is 44". We have a handrail on each side of the stairway. My question is "is an intermediate handrail required in the middle of this stairway? I am assuming yes but the code (2009 IBC) is not as black and white on the issue as it is others.
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Re: Stairway Intermediate Handrail

New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:28 pm

mtCDCcb wrote:The required width for the stairway based on occupancy is 44". We have a handrail on each side of the stairway. My question is "is an intermediate handrail required in the middle of this stairway?

No, the intermediate handrail is only required when the "required width" exceeds the allowed "all portions of the stairway width required for egress capacity are within 30 inches (762 mm) of a handrail"; i.e., if the handrails are greater than 60" between the handrails. If the stairway had a required width of 72", that stairway would require two intermediate handrails (one intermediate handrail would leave approximately 27"-28" between the two side handrails and the intermediate handrail). A stairway with a required width of 69" (give or take) would only require one intermediate handrail.

The reason for the "approximately 34"-35" between" and "(give or take)" is that the size of the intermediate handrail is part of the equation as the code does not state 'center line of the handrails', the code simply states that all portions of the stair shall be "within 30 inches (762 mm) of a handrail", which indicates 'handrail edge to handrail edge'. If the handrail is a Type I and is a 2" diameter circular handrail, that means that stairway with a required width of 69" with a 2" diameter handrail on each side which has the required 1-1/2" clearance to the wall (2" + 2" + 1-1/2" + 1-1/2" = 7" + 2" for the intermediate handrail = 9" may be deducted from the required width and then divide the required width by 2, if the answer is 30" or less then only one intermediate handrail is required (and even that depends on the sizes of the three handrails and clearances as the handrails may project 4-1/2" from the wall + the 2" or so center handrail = 11" for an extreme case) ... provided my math is correct and I did not added it up incorrectly.

Just keep in mind these words "the REQUIRED width" of the stair, not the width of the stair.

Now, with all of the above said ... if a person walked down the center of that 10 foot wide stair where there was no attempt to provide them with a handrail and they fell down the stairs ... do you really think that the condo association would have a reasonable chance of defending the lawsuit because the stair met "minimum code requirements"?

As a code consultant, one would think the answer would be 'Yes,', however, when keeping in mind the "minimum" nature of the code, the code consultant re-thinks the position and says 'possibly not'.

As an expert witness and litigation consultant, the answer is "Your chance in successfully defending against that fall lawsuit is somewhere between slim and none." ... I'd rather "invest" in the PowerBall lottery, there would be a greater chance of winning it than of winning that lawsuit.

Installing one intermediate handrail *at least shows an attempt to reach a higher level of safety for the occupants* than not installing even one intermediate handrail. Does that mean you would be successful in defending the same lawsuit? Nope. But it would raise the chances for success and likely lower any monetary damages in an award to the plaintiff.

10 foot wide stairway = handrails on each side + recommending at least one intermediate handrail
Jerry Peck - CodeMan
Construction and Litigation Consultant - Retired
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