Understanding Australian Regulations For Handrails

Handrails are safety features that are used to edge steps, landings or other hazards to reduce the risk of falls or slips. As a safety feature, under the law, handrails are required to comply with some specific standards. Here we note the Australian regulations for handrails, giving you the information you need to ensure compliance in a range of different settings.

bright modern stairs with handra

On stairs, handrails are required to be at least 865mm above the nose (the surface of the first tread) of the stairs. As the rail ascends the staircase, it needs to retail the 865mm length above the floor surface of the slope.

Some regulations cover the width of the gap between the bannisters or rails; the guidance states that a 12.5cm sphere shouldn't be able to pass between the struts. Similarly, a 12.5cm sphere shouldn't be able to pass through any gap that exists between the bottom of the rails and the stair treads.

As a minimum, a handrail should be installed up the entire length of the flight of stairs or steps. The handrail should be continuous unless broken by a supporting post.

Do all steps require a handrail?

Sets of steps that result in less than a 1m height gain do not require handrails (although it is good practice to fit them, particularly in a setting to which the public has access). Steps that span a greater height than 1m require a handrail. For standard-sized steps, that equates to sets of steps or stairs with more than three treads (four risers).

Handrails on landings

As well as being a requirement on steps or stairs, it's also part of building regs that landings more than 4m from the ground should also have some form of handrail, to minimize the risk of a fall. Note that in most domestic properties with an upper floor, it's commonplace to fit a handrail, even if the landing is less than 4m from the ground.

Note that the height for a rail enclosing a landing is higher than for a stair rail. While a stair rail has a minimum height of 865mm, a rail for a landing needs to be at least 1000mm (1m) in height.

Special requirements for healthcare and care settings for the elderly

In a healthcare setting, a handrail is required on one side of the corridor as a minimum, in any areas corridors that are accessed by patients. This is in addition to the standard handrail requirements for stairs and landings. The handrail should be at least 50mm away from the wall (to enable users to get a good grip around the rail) and ideally provide continuous support down the length of the corridor.

Similarly, handrails are also needed in the corridors of care homes for the elderly, although in these settings, rails should be attached to each wall of the corridor.


There are also specific regulations relating to rail fixings; compliance with standard A51428 1-2009 is required.

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