Q: I am working on an aesthetic corridor remodel for a hospital. Can you please tell me if there are specific requirements as to handrail locations (i.e- one side of the wall vs. both sides, at what locations, for what amount of distance, etc.)?
A: In regards to healthcare occupancies, and specifically hospitals, there is no Life Safety Code requirement for handrails in an exit access corridor. There are requirements for stairs, exit enclosures, ramps and exit passageways to have handrails, but the LSC does not have any requirements for corridors. However, there are other codes and standards to consider. The Facility Guidelines Institute requires hospitals to comply with ADA requirements in regards to handrails in corridor, unless the functional program narrative specifically decides against them. What this means, if the hospital has a written program that describes the use and activities that the corridor serves is not consistent with handrails, then it is permissible not to install them. An example of this may be a Psychiatric unit where a handrail could possibly be removed and used as a weapon. In essence, the hospital gets to decide if there will be handrails, but the reason needs to be plausible and written down in a program narrative. Also, compliance with ADA requirements is required whenever new construction or renovation of an existing area is conducted. I do not believe just installing new wallpaper qualifies as renovation, so compliance with ADA would not be required. I strongly recommend that you contact the local and state authorities to determine if they have regulations that would require handrails.