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Work safety and humble handrails

With Safe Work Australia Month still on, it's useful to continue reflecting on the various products used on sites across Australia to help ensure quarry and mining safety.

There are numerous features that are so ubiquitous as to now be virtually synonymous with safety on the work site, from walkways and elevators to hard-hats. One of the unsung products that may not get as much attention is the humble handrail – a feature so understated, many Australians likely do not give it a second thought. 

Handrails, however, are a key safety product that help minimise workplace injuries every day. Without them, your average site would likely be a location riddled with nasty falls, bruises and who knows what else occurring daily. 

A short history of the handrail

For most of history, handrails were not a feature built into staircases. Their first known appearance was in ancient Assyria, where evidence of handrails being part of architecture existed, once ruins were excavated.

According to the Dictionary of Architecture and Building Construction by Nikolas Davies and Erkki Jokiniemi, balustrades were a common element of ancient Assyrian architecture, taking the form of short, thick, cylindrical baluster columns. Balustrades, among other architectural uses, are also typically used to connect handrails. 

Handrails appeared sporadically throughout history after that, but it is only in the twentieth century that handrails have become a legal requirement for building in many Western countries. In the United States, for example, the Code of Federal Regulations, first published in 1938, now mandates the construction of handrails as well as their design specifications. The Building Code of Australia, first implemented in 1980 to replace the Interstate Committee on Uniform Building Regulations established in 1965, makes similar demands. 

Handrails prevent trips and falls

It's not hard to see why handrails are considered crucial when it comes to any space with significant amounts of foot traffic. Rushing from one place to another, particularly down a steep gradient, is an automatic recipe for injury. Having something to grab onto to steady yourself, or even stabilise yourself in case of a fall, is a welcome luxury. 

In fact, according to a May 2012 study published by the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the presence of a handrail for scaffold workers was found to contribute to increased "postural stability and cardiovascular stress" –  or in other words, minimise the risk of falls. 

Locker Group provides handrails for both commercial and industrial applications, whether car parks, stairways, bridges or a mine or quarry site. With products that are reliable, durable and cost-effective, you can be sure you're getting the most effective safety solution with the finest value for money.