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Sidewalks And Stairs: Eliminate The Risk Of Dangerous Falls!

Sidewalks and stairs: eliminate the risk of dangerous falls!

The BBQ season is fast approaching and many of us are planning to review the layout of our backyards. The Quebec Construction Code gives us rules to follow to ensure the safety of all, but have you ever consulted it? If so, were you able to understand it all? What is a handrail, a guardrail? Our experts look in these things and dissect the Code’s requirements for you. Read our article and learn how to secure your balconies, stairs and walkways to enjoy a safe summer.

The code has different requirements whether we’re dealing with a guardrail or a handrail. That said, we must admit we often find them together. The handrail helps to keep your footing when going up or down flights of stairs while the guardrail is there to prevent you from falling from a walkway to a level below. In the CMHC Housing Glossary, we find the following definition:

Handrail: horizontal or sloping (in the case of a ramp or staircase) support piece located at the top or side of a railing or wall to which the hand of a person will take hold in order to prevent falls.

Meanwhile, the Code defines the guardrail as follows:

Guardrail: a protective barrier placed around openings in a floor, or on the open sides of a staircase, a landing, a balcony, a mezzanine floor, a gallery or any and all raised walkway or place to prevent an accidental fall in the opening. It may or may not have openings in itself.


Some places might need a handrail but no guardrails since the danger of side fall is not an issue. A specific section of the code tells us that the places mentioned above shall be protected by a railing on each side if there’s a risk of falling more than 600 mm (2 feet). For more information on the requirements needed to make your balcony or staircase compliant, click here to read our article from May 27 2014.

Now, let’s take a look at a common question: what about when a slope (embankment) borders the sidewalk or stairs (see photo above)? The same section of the Code informs us that the flights of stairs, raised walkways and others must be protected by a railing on every side where the risk of falling can result in serious injury. Specifically, if the first 1.2 m (4 ft) of land on either side has a slope greater than 1: 2, which indicates the ratio between the height and width, a guardrail will be required to prevent the passengers from falling in. In other words, a slope of 1: 2 is an elevation of one meter on the vertical axis for every two meters traveled (horizontal).

Guardrail and handrail compliance is part of the multitude of elements that our inspectors check during maintenance, pre-purchase and pre-sale inspections. Click here to see a more complete list of the items inspected. You will see the complexity that lies behind these services and the reasons why it’s so important to entrust these inspections to professionals.

You have a balcony, stair or terrace project for this summer and are unsure of all the standards that you must meet to ensure the safety of your family? Ask our experts who will advise and support you, no matter the size or nature of your work. Click here to learn more about our range of residential services or here for our services for professionals.

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