Imagine what would happen if, all at once, every railing in the world disappeared. It would be a global catastrophe. Every person leaning on a rail would fall, whether they were standing on the edge of their front porch, a deck overlooking the ocean, or a cliff at the Grand Canyon. Toddlers would toddle off porches, and the disabled and elderly might be left stranded on staircases.

Although many of us use railings everyday, we don’t often stop to consider the importance of railings for safety. Railings seem to complete the design of our porches and decks, and they’re a convenient spot to hang flower beds, lights, or bunting. We love to lean on them, but we often take for granted the fact that our railings are sturdy, strong, and aptly sized. So today, we’re here to remind you of the importance of railings for safety.

Importance of Railings for Safety

Never for a moment underestimate the importance of railings, especially on stairways, decks, and ledges. Of course a railing can add beauty to a home or building as well, but the primary purpose of the railing should always be safety. To help you understand the full importance of railings, we’ve compiled a list of their safety benefits:

To Help People Balance on Steps and Platforms: When a person loses balance on the stairs or suffers from muscle weakness, they may cling to the railing. Railings provide stability, which is especially important for young children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Some people like to lightly graze railings with their hands just in case they need extra support or balance.
To Prevent Nasty Falls: Railings on decks and ledges provide a needed barrier between the deck’s surface and the high vertical drop. They help protect curious children, wild pets, and inebriated or unaware adults.
To Provide Comfort and Peace of Mind: If a person suffers from vertigo or an extreme fear of heights, a railing can make them feel more comfortable. It also allows people to walk to the very edge of a deck or balcony. Without a railing, most people would not venture within 6-12 inches of the edge.
To Increase Safety During Inclement Weather: During inclement weather, including rain, snow, ice, and sleet, flooring surfaces can become slippery and dangerous. Railings provide support, and many people will clutch on to them to ensure that they don’t slip. To further increase safety in these circumstances, keep the flooring surface salted and shoveled.
To Help Those Carrying Unwieldy Loads: When you’re carrying a heavy or cumbersome load and attempting to climb up a set of stairs or a ramp, a railing can make the journey far less treacherous. It will give you something to grab onto if you’re feeling off balance. For example, a railing may come in handy if you’re carrying a suitcase, a sack of groceries, or a baby.
To Keep Items from Flying Off on Windy Days: On a windy day, a railing can keep the contents of your porch or deck from flying right off the edge. This includes furniture, umbrellas, toys, cushions, etc. The railing also allows you to place items on the edge of your porch or deck without fear (like sofas, barbecue pits, and flower pots).

How to Ensure a Railing is Safe

Of course, simply installing a railing on a flight of stairs, a platform, or a ramp is not enough to ensure safety. If you want to make certain that your railing is safe, follow these three tips.

Abide by All Applicable Building Codes

As you likely know, railings are not optional when one builds a flight of stairs, a balcony, or a deck. Because they are so effective in improving safety, they are required in many public and commercial areas. In fact, any open-sided walking surface more than 30 inches off the ground necessitates a guardrail.

So if you want to ensure that your railing is completely safe, check that it adheres to all applicable building codes. Regulations for railings vary depending on the location (residential building, commercial building, stairway, deck, etc.). However, most regulations specify important criteria like the required height of the railing, how large the openings of the interior section can be, where handrails are required, the continuity of the rail, how high the bottom rail is from the surface beneath, and so on. The requirements were established by certified professionals, so you can trust in their correctness.

Purchase Your Railing from a Reputable Company

Unless you are fully confident in your construction skills, do not attempt to DIY a railing. With one simple mistake, you could threaten the life of anyone who leans upon that rail. Instead, purchase your new railing from a reputable supplier and manufacturer. Review the ingredients of the railing, the design, the manufacturing process, the company’s reviews, and the warranty. A little research can go a long way.

Ensure the Railing Is Properly Installed

Ideally, an experienced professional will install your railing using the appropriate tools and hardware. However, some railings can be installed by amateur handymen. If you decide to install a railing without professional assistance, read the directions carefully beforehand and follow the instructions to the letter. Take your time, and inspect your progress as you go. After the railing has been successfully and safely installed, examine the railing routinely to ensure that it is holding up well and hasn’t been compromised by general wear and tear.