Translating high quality research specific to better design and building practice

Research Library

The HMinfo Research Library contains an in-depth collection of materials on home modifications and related subjects.

The Research Library does not lend books and other items. Under special circumstances, requests to use the library may be made by emailing .

Library Search


Hold On! An Observational Study of Staircase Handrail Use: Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, October, 2001

Author: Cohen, H. H.
Type: Conference Proceedings
Year: 2001


Handrails are the primary safety devices installed on staircases, yet it has not been empirically determined to what extent they are actually used. This study selected two staircases, one long and wide and another short and narrow, serving a newly remodeled shopping mall. Variables observed were: handrail use, ascent/descent, number of hands free, within arm's reach, gait, gender, and age. Less than a third of all staircase users utilized a handrail, with the likelihood of use increasing with age. Overall, 59% were observed to place themselves within arm's reach of a handrail. Staircase users were more likely to be within arm's reach during descent. Women were more likely to have just one hand free, while men more frequently had both hands free. Handrail use was observed to be 10% greater during descent than ascent. The study shows that even with handrails having high usability characteristics, actual handrail use is minimal. This finding has implications for behavioral compliance in situations where a safety device is provided, but its need is not perceived to be immediate.

Further Details

Publish Dates: 45th Annual Meeting
Pages: 1502-1506
Accession Number: August, 2010
Keywords: rail, modification, mobility
Reads: 172