Penny pinching on handrails could cost you dearly

23 July 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202019662

Construction, Civil & Structural Engineering
Disaster Management
Metals & Alloys
Occupational Health
Property – Commercial & Industrial

IN this tough economic climate purchasing decisions are, in many cases, based on price alone. This is of major concern as individuals with little understanding of the technical aspects behind a product such as handrailing can unwittingly compromise the safety of people.

That’s according to Dean Weil, Operations Executive of Mentis Africa, who cheaper handrailing invariably meant that thinner material was being used. “This could have a serious impact on the safety of personnel working on the plants where the product is installed. Thinner material being used in handrail manufacture obviously impacts on its structural integrity and will affect its strength over the long term.”

He added that when a sub-standard product fails, the consequences to the company can be much higher than the original savings. “It makes good business sense to buy products of the correct quality, with sound structural integrity, that will contribute towards a safe working environment.”

Penny pinching on handrails could cost you dearly

The quality of handrailing systems in South Africa is governed by an industry standard arrived at by independent authorities, based on numerous tests to determine the correct material and specifications that ensure handrail is able to withstand a certain level of pressure and force. This includes the stanchions or uprights, as well as the horizontal rails.

The standard accepted base plate in local industry for a stanchion or upright is, for example, 10mm thick, in order to deliver the appropriate load-bearing support for the stanchion and meet all safety requirements.

“Bases are being made available to the market that are only 8mm thick,” Weil said. “Someone without sufficient technical knowledge could easily assume that a difference of just 2mm cannot make a significant difference to the integrity of the product. Yet tests have proved that a 10mm base is almost twice as strong as an 8mm base.”

According to the industry standard, the bottom tube of the stanchion should have a wall thickness of 2.5mm. Weil says the same applies here — inferior products with wall thicknesses of 2mm and 1.6mm are currently being put into use.

Again, tubes with the specified 2.5mm wall thickness have been tested and shown to be at least 20% stronger than the 2mm and 1.6mm tubes. The top tube should also have a minimum 2mm wall thickness, but inferior products with a wall thickness of 1.6mm are presently being utilised.

Handrails for industrial and general purposes should normally be of the two-rail type — comprising a handrail and a knee rail, supported on standards placed at suitable intervals. Handrailing should preferably, and always in areas where there are stairs, be continuous and have no obstruction on, above or near to it that could obstruct people’s hands as they move along it.

The recommended clearance between a handrail and any wall or object behind or below it is 65mm.

Related Articles