Reg 126 for Handrail/Guardrail to AS1657 and AS1428


Recently, we have received an increase in enquiries for Regulation 126 Certificate of Compliance for Proposed Building Works for handrails or guardrails. Only to realised that many of these handrails/grabrails weren't designed at all. Some contractors would purchase and install without having any design documentation or drawings. I thought this would be a popular hot topic to discuss and explain the requirement in simple terms.

The National Construction Code contains performance requirements for the construction of buildings. This code provides the minimum necessary requirements for safety, health, amenity and sustainability in the design and construction of new buildings and any new building work in existing buildings throughout Australia.

The geometric requirements of handrails (For example, handrail height must be a minimum of 865mm, so that they are comfortable to use for most people and provide sufficient stability, support, and assistance). They also refer to two Australian Standards for the design loads that the handrails and its fixings must withstand:

AS 1657 – This standard covers the design requirements of mezzanines, stairways, walkways, and service platforms to provide safe access to places generally used by operating, inspection, maintenance, and service personnel. This standard does not apply to areas that are accessible to the general public such as apartment balconies, rooftop gardens or similar or to situations where special provision is made in appropriate building or other regulations e.g. way of escape from fire.

AS 1428 – This standard sets out the minimum design requirements for access and mobility on new building work to enable access for people with disabilities. It covers aspects of access to and within a building. It does not cover Class 1a or 1b buildings (private dwellings) and non-common areas in Class 2 buildings (e.g. block of units). However, it may be used as a legal reference.

Reg 126 Handrail Grabrail Guardrail Melbourne

The basics of handrail standards and when they apply

There are a number of regulations related to the design and placement of handrails in permanent structures, and those rules vary based on the intended use of this safety system.

Australian Standard 1170.1 is used in situations where the public has access to a stairwell, elevated walkway, ramp, balcony or similar area. The specific rules vary greatly depending on the situation, for instance, a rail in a theatre has stricter standards than a rail used in a private home.

AS 1657, meanwhile, is used for areas such as machinery rooms, boiler rooms and similar applications. The most important distinction is that this standard applies to areas where the public isn't allowed to enter. Businesses operating industrial facilities and similar buildings that only trained workers can access should follow this set of regulations. It assumes that personnel are using platform walkways, mezzanines and related structures where hand railings are required.

The good news for industrial businesses: Visitors to facilities are usually quite limited, and generally don't need to be taken on platform walkways or areas where a hand railing or barrier is required. AS 1657 assumes that personnel are trained and understand core safety concerns, which means the rules are more straightforward.

What are the height regulations for a handrail?

Handrails in industrial settings must reach a defined height range under the guidance of AS 1657, for the purpose of offering fall protection to workers who may slip, trip or stumble at dangerous heights. The standard specifies that the top of the guardrail, which is the highest vertical point of the handrail structure, must  stand between 900mm-1,100mm from the top of the walkway or platform. In instances where guardrails are used on staircases, the nosing height is the reference point. Nosing refers to the end of the stair tread, the lip or protrusion that extends horizontally from the top surface of each stair, which is intended to provide additional surface area in a highly trafficked portion of the stairs and reduce potential accidents.

While the required height is provided as a range, allowing for some flexibility to implement the safest solution for a given facility's specific needs, it's important to note that the rail needs to remain at a consistent elevation parallel to the floor. It can't start at 900mm at one end of the platform or ramp and increase to 1,100mm at the other end. The same is true of staircases, which are also covered by AS 1657, as the rail should remain at a specific height relative to the nosing line from top to bottom.

The guardrail is not the only rail component of these safety systems that AS 1657 regulates. Intermediate rails, which sit between the guardrail and the walkway, platform or stairs, are also required and regulated. The top of this rail should be installed at a maximum of 450mm from the bottom of the guardrail. When it comes to height from the walkway surface, there is also a 450mm maximum. However, this distance is measured between the top of the toeboard or kickplate when one is present. In cases where a toeboard isn't necessary, the maximum distance between the base and the bottom of the intermediate rail is 560mm at most.

AS 1657 specifies that toeboards themselves must be used if there is a distance of 10mm or greater between the platform or walkway and another nearby permanent structure. Toeboards require a minimum height of 100mm from the top of the platform or nosing line, although a gap of up to 10mm is allowed between the toeboard and the walkway, specifically from the top of the base to the underside of the toeboard.

How do you measure the height of a handrail?

Guardrail height is always calculated from the top of the flat underlying structure, or the nosing line of the staircase, to the top of the guardrail. For an intermediate rail, height is measured from the top of the underlying structure or toeboard to the bottom of the rail. Similarly, the top of the intermediate rail and bottom of the guardrail are used when measuring the maximum allowable distance between the two.

Are there any special considerations to make around the use of handrails?

The top rail or guardrail is vital because it helps to reduce the chances of an employee falling over the side of a stairway, platform or walkway. It also serves as a handhold for workers standing on or crossing these structures, providing greater stability and further reducing risk. To make use of the top rail as a handrail safe and simple, AS 1657 requires that handrails allow for simple access, with clearance of at least 50mm from another structure or rail. Additionally, the top rail must be free of any features that could cause injury when used, such as points and sharp edges.

Handrails should be continuous across the stairway, elevated platform or walkway to provide the highest level of safety and align with regulatory expectations.

When do stairs require a handrail?

Stairways are similar to walkways and platforms in terms of when handrails and guardrails are required. Unless there is a permanent structure within 100mm of the stairway, guardrails are needed. Handrails or top rails are always required, and must be placed on both sides of the stairway if it has a total width of 1,000m or more.

Reg 126 industrial stairs Australia structural design

A Summary of the Handrail Requirements under AS 1657

When is a handrail required?

Australian Standard AS 1657 states that handrailing is required on exposed sides of platforms, walkways and landings when the height exceeds 300mm.When it comes to constructing handrail, there are a surprising number of regulations that apply. Some of the most vital regulations concern how high the handrail should be designed, the height of the platform or base the handrail is being installed on, and whether a handrail or barrier is required. These requirements have been developed specifically to prevent height-related injuries, especially for platforms or mezzanines located high above ground where a fall could cause serious injury or death.

What are the height regulations for a handrail?

The height of a handrail, measured vertically above the floor, walkway surface or the nosing of a stair tread, shall not be less that 900mm or greater than 1100mm,as shown in figure 6.1. The height of the top of the handrail shall be consistent through the ramp (or stairs) and any landings.

When is a toeboard or kickplate required?

Where an object could fall from a platform or landing onto an area where persons have access to the area below and to the side of the walkway, a toeboard needs to be installed. A toeboard shall be installed on the edge of a walkway where there is no permanent structure within 10 mm of the edge. Any gap between the underside of the toeboard and the walkway surface shall not exceed 10mm. The top of the toeboard shall be not less than 100mm above the floor.

Design Requirements:

Where guardrailing/handrails is of post and rail construction, the following requirements apply:

• They shall consist of a top rail — supported by posts at intervals as necessary to meet the specified imposed actions; parallel to the floor or, where used on a sloping walkway, parallel to the slope of the walkway.

• One or more intermediate rails shall be provided parallel with the top rail and spaced such that the maximum clear space between the rails or between the lowest rail and toeboard, where fitted, shall not exceed 450 mm.

• Where no toeboard is installed, the clear space between the lowest rail and the floor shall not exceed 560 mm.

A Summary of the Handrail Requirements under AS 1428

The AS 1428 standard defines the minimum design requirements for mobility access on new building work to enable safe access for people with disabilities, with particular attention on:

• Continuous accessible paths of travel and circulation spaces for people who use wheelchairs;

• Access and facilities for people with ambulatory disabilities;

• Access for people with sensory disabilities.

What are the height regulations for a handrail?

• The top of the handrail must be not less than 865mm or greater than 1000mm from the nosing of a stair or the plane of the finished floor level on a ramp, walkway or landing.

• Handrail height shall be consistent throughout the ramp, stair and landing.

• The dimensions indicating the heights of handrails shall be taken vertically from the nosing of the tread to the top of the handrail.

• If a balustrade is required at a height greater than the handrail, both shall be provided.

When is a handrail required?

Handrail is required to both sides of a stair/ramp, with a minimum of 1000mm clearance between both handrails.

Further Design requirements:

Under AS 1428.1-2009 Clause 12, handrails shall be designed to comply with the following:

• The cross-section of the handrail must be circular or elliptical, with a height & width of not less than 30mm or greater than 50mm for 270° around the uppermost surface. The horizontal axis on elliptical handrail must be the axis with the greater dimension.

• A clear space between a handrail & an adjacent wall or other obstruction must not be less than50mm. A clear space of 600mm is also required above the top of the handrail.

• Handrails are to have no obstruction to the passage of a hand along the rail.

Please note that there are more requirements stated under Clause 12 and that the above list is only a small selection of them.

For full AS 1428requirements you can visit

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