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AS1657 Balustrade & Handrail Compliance Guide 2024

AS 1657: Fixed Ladders, Platforms and Stairs


AS 1657 is an Australian Standard outlining design, construction, and installation requirements for fixed ladders, platforms, and stairs used for access and egress in workplaces. Following AS 1657 ensures these structures are safe and suitable for their intended use.

Key Considerations for Construction Workers:

  • Understanding the Standard:

     AS 1657 applies to various fixed access equipment used in construction sites, industrial facilities, and other workplaces. Construction workers should be familiar with the specific requirements for the type of ladder, platform, or stair they are working with.

  • Types of Fixed Access Equipment Covered by AS 1657:

    • Fixed vertical ladders (including rungs, cages, and fastenings)
    • Stairs (including treads, risers, nosings, landings, and handrails)
    • Walkways (including platforms, gangways, and associated support structures)
    • Fixed industrial staircases
  • General Requirements: 

    AS 1657 sets out guidelines for:

    • Design loads (weight capacities) for ladders, platforms, and stairs.
    • Dimensional requirements (e.g., ladder rung spacing, stair tread dimensions, platform clearances).
    • Materials and construction specifications.
    • Stability and fixing requirements.
    • Fall protection measures (e.g., cages for ladders, guardrails for platforms).
    • Access and egress considerations.


Focus on Balustrades in AS 1657:

  • Mandatory for Platforms and Stairs:

     AS 1657 mandates balustrades for all walking surfaces on platforms and stairs where there’s a fall risk of more than 500mm.

  • Balustrade Height:

     The minimum balustrade height is 900mm measured vertically from the walking surface to the top rail. This ensures adequate support for most people.

  • Strength and Loading:

     Balustrades must be strong enough to withstand a minimum horizontal load of 450N (Newtons) applied at any point along the top rail. This simulates someone leaning on the balustrade for balance.

  • Gaps:

     Gaps between balusters (vertical bars) should not exceed 100mm to prevent a child’s head from getting trapped.

  • Handrails:

     A continuous handrail must be installed along the top of the balustrade. The handrail should be between 900mm and 1000mm high, with a diameter between 32mm and 45mm for ease of gripping.

  • Location:

     Balustrades need to be positioned close enough to the walking surface to provide proper support. The maximum distance between the wall and the inside of the handrail is typically 40mm.

  • Extensions:

     Balustrades should extend horizontally a minimum of 300mm beyond the top and bottom steps or the beginning and end of a platform to provide support when entering or exiting.

  • Materials:

     Balustrades can be constructed from various materials like timber, metal, or glass, but they must meet the strength and stability requirements outlined in the standard.

What is a Glass Balustrade

Additional Considerations for Construction Workers:

  • Visual Contrast:

     For improved visibility, especially at night or in low-light conditions, the handrail and top rail should have a good visual contrast compared to the wall behind them.

  • Signage:

     Where a change in level exists and a balustrade is not provided (e.g., a single step), tactile ground surface indicators and warning signage should be installed to alert pedestrians with vision impairments.

  • Safety Cages:

     For fixed vertical ladders exceeding a certain height, AS 1657 mandates safety cages to prevent falls. These cages should meet specific design and strength requirements.

  • Fall Arrest Systems:

     Depending on the ladder height and specific fall risks, additional fall arrest systems like harnesses and lifelines might be required.

  • Inspection and Maintenance:

     Regular inspections of ladders, platforms, and stairs are crucial to ensure they are free of damage, loose components, and maintain their structural integrity.



  • AS 1657 is a minimum requirement. Project specifications may have stricter guidelines for balustrades or access equipment.
  • Always follow the project’s specific requirements and consult with engineers or architects for clarification.
  • By understanding and adhering to AS 1657 regulations, construction workers can help create safe work environments and prevent falls from height.

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