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Strength, positioning, coating and grip are important characteristics of grab rail construction.
Although primarily used in the bathroom and toilet, grab rails can be positioned anywhere in and around the home to provide support. Quite often these grab rails are used to assist the frail, the elderly, handicapped persons or those recovering from an illness. Wall-mounted grab rails provide the extra confidence and assistance needed by many people in their everyday lives while negotiating doorways, steps, showers and toilets.
Various types and models of grab rail are available for internal or external applications. Conveniently placed rails will provide help in four ways:
- as something to push or pull against when standing up
- as a steadying support while sitting down
- for a secure and a steadying grip when transferring from one position to another
- for balance when standing, walking or dressing.
Most grab rails are attached to a suitable wall, although floor to ceiling rails are available. The type required will depend upon an assessment of the situation and an assumption of the user’s mobility and strength. A combination of vertical and horizontal rails is often found to be helpful.
Materials used in the construction of grab rails are chosen by the manufacturer to ensure adequate strength and good corrosion resistance. Steel tubing is a common material and this is often plated or covered with a durable plastic coating or paint.
Ideally, grab rails should be ergonomically designed to provide the best possible shape to fit a large population of users, to promote increased confidence, safety and comfort.
Types of grab rail
When choosing a grab rail there are many factors to consider, including the following:
- check there is sufficient room between the rail and the wall to allow the person to secure a strong handgrip. Usually a space of about 4 to 6.5cm (1.5 to 2.5 inches) between the wall and rail is sufficient for most people
- ensure that the rail is comfortable to hold, especially if the person has weak or painful hands. It is recommended that the rail should have a diameter of between 3 to 4.5cm (1.25 to 1.75 inches).
Finish of grab rail
The finish of the rail may be important from an aesthetic point of view and also for the grip the surface provides. Polished or chrome finished rails may be attractive and hard-wearing, but can be quite slippery to hold, especially when hands are wet. Coated or plastic finished rails will provide a warmer feel and are usually also hard-wearing. Condensation will also be reduced.
Coated rails allow a choice of colours for colour co-ordination of bathroom accessories or to help the visually impaired. Slip-resistant finishes, offering increased grip, are often achieved with a knurled or a ribbed finish. This can be moulded as part of the grip or perhaps a coating applied to the rail. Improved grip will be useful for those occasions when the user has wet hands.
Grab rail testing
Testing of grab rails to ensure fitness for purpose and adequate strength can be carried out at SATRA using heavy-duty strength testing machines.
SATRA has examined several ranges of grab rails for strength according to the specification and test method provided by the supplier. The individual rails have been tested using a machine capable of exerting a maximum force of 9kN, to demonstrate that they could meet the maximum operating loads quoted in national and international standards and current product specifications.
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