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Australian Handrail Legal Requirements

Australia has many handrail legal requirements to ensure safety in all situations. This comprehensive guide will give a breakdown of all the legal standards required to make sure you are compliant whether you are working on a residential, commercial, or industrial project.

Australian Standards for Handrails and Guardrails

The Australian Standard AS1657-2018 outlines several guardrail and handrail legal requirements. One of them is to keep the handrail for steps between 900 mm and 1100 mm above the floor surface and the nosing of a stair tread. For added safety, the guardrail should be at most 1000 m high. Handrails must also be smooth and continuously accessible, while the guardrail has a top rail and knee rail with space between them to prevent falls.

Key Dimensions and Design Considerations

Handrail Height

The handrail height should be between 900mm and 1100mm above the floor or the nosing height of the stair tread. This will ensure that all persons can use the handrail, and a fall from this height will not be very dangerous.

Guardrail height used as a handrail can be 1000mm when the risk of falling is great.


Handrails shall be circular and have an external diameter of 30 mm to 65 mm. If square or rectangle, the area of the rectangle shall be such that the summation of height and width ranges from 70 to 100mm.

Handrail shall be designed such that normal human hands can freely slide on the top surface with a clearance of at least 50 mm. No sharp edge or unfavorable features shall be included to cause injury.

Material Considerations and Load Requirement:


Guardrails, which could also serve as a handrail, should be rigid and strong to withstand various forces without significant deflection. A 600 N force shall be applied outwards or downwards at any part of the guardrail, and the deflection shall not be more than 100 mm. 


The toeboard or kick plate shall prevent falling small objects that could create a hazard below. The gap between the toeboard’s bottom side and the walking or working surface shall not be more than 10 mm, and the toeboard shall extend 100 mm above the floor to provide suitable falling debris protection.

Compliance and Safety Enhancements

Australian Handrail Legal Requirements

These features include: the angle of slopes, the construction of the walking surface of platforms and landings, the clear width of walkways, and the dimensions of landings to eliminate hazards. Other design specifications, such as proper signage, paddings, and the usage of high-contrast markings and visibility enhancements, can be utilized in environments where structural modifications are not feasible. Installing a sturdy handrail for seniors can greatly enhance their safety and mobility at home.

Residential Handrail Legal Requirements Australia

The residential handrail legal requirements in Australia are guided by the Building Code of Australia and AS1657-2018. The standards demand that all stairways should have a handrail. If the width between the handrail and the wall, or the stair, is wider than 1000 mm, then a handrail on every side should be installed. The handrails must comply with the standards and should meet the safety and support of the residents.

Commercial Handrails

In respect to the Australian Handrails Standards, commercial settings follow AS1657-2018 standards, which are more advanced than the residential ones. Due to higher use and traffic, the commercial handrails must be able to withstand more loads and they should have proper guard accessories and provisions to meet the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) standards on accessibility.


Implementation of these laws does not only solve legal status but has a major impact on user safety. Well-constructed and maintained handrails are key to providing and developing a safer environment in both commercial and residential spaces. However, you can get guidance and consultation from experts in Gilani Engineering for the best handrail installation service in Sydney.

The Australian standard, AS1657-2018, is the most appropriate document for all information regarding the handrails standards, specifications, and design.


What are the Australian standards for handrails?

The Australian Standard AS1657-2018 specifies the requirements for handrails for commercial and residential buildings.

Does a house have to have a handrail?

The requirement for handrails in a house depends on the number of stairs, it’s height and dimension. It also depends on the floor, slope or smooth floors. For persons with difficulty with mobility would need the need the support of handrails to move about in normal surfaces too.

How many steps can you have without a handrail?

A staircase can have less than four steps before you need to build a handrail.

What is the Australian standard for timber handrail?

According to the Australian standards, timber handrail legal requirements are that the height for the stair must not be less than 865mm. Additionally, on the landing where the fall from height is more, the height of the guardrail should not be less than 1000 mm.

What is the AS1657 Standard in Australia?

The Australian standard for handrails is AS 1657-2018 “Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders, design, construction and installation”. This standard provides guidance on the design, construction, and installation of handrails for fixed platforms, walkways, stairways, and ladders.

What is the standard spacing for handrails in Australia?

A handrail shall have a minimum clearance of 50mm all around it from any adjacent wall or obstruction. On the top of the handrail, there shall be a clearance of not less than 600mm.

What is the maximum distance between handrail posts?

The maximum distance between handrail posts should be 1.8m.