- Friday, 30 September 2011 13:10
Article Read: 1859
As buildings age the need to replace balcony balustrade/handrails is becoming more and more common.
The need to upgrade the safety aspect and modernise the appearance of the building has been brought about by the rapid deterioration of the old handrail systems, workplace health and safety requirements and a push by insurance companies, to ensure that the buildings insured are of a safe standard
Accommodation providers are becoming more aware of their exposure and liability, if buildings/handrails are not maintained to a safe working standard as well as the financial benefits of balustrade upgrades for increased property values.
In some instances a handrail system can be "repaired" and the integrity of its purpose restored to a functionally acceptable standard. Quite often that is not the case. Replacing your handrail becomes necessary when your posts are corroded, broken and/or loose or when the connections made between the handrail and posts become loose/broken. Other reasons to replace handrails are for unsafe toe holds incorrect heights and sometimes for aesthetics to improve the overall style property values of building from the original installation.
One of the main queries we receive is whether existing railings need to be modified/replaced to meet the current building code and does the building meet relevant requirements in place today. In most cases we find that the old balustrade systems are so inadequate that we believe the day will come when there is a successful claim made against an accommodation provider of a none compliant balustrade for neglecting their duty of care.
Building codes and standards are a minimum requirement and there is a legal obligation to fully assess the risk and go above and possibly beyond minimum standards if required, for example if furniture and other climbable items are situated near the railing and children frequent the area then a 1m high balustrade is not adequate.
The main point is to properly assess the risk and implement appropriate controls. Replacing or modifying older balustrades may not be immediately possible or financially viable so alternative or interim controls may be better than nothing, such as moving items or high risk activities away from the balustrade or install warning signs on access doors to balconies etc.
The current Building Codes of Australia requirements are that balcony balustrades have the following attributes
The top of the railing must be least 1m from the ground.
Any opening must not allow a 125mm sphere (a childs head) to pass through. So the vertical components must not be more than 125mm apart.
The gap between the balcony surfaces to the bottom rail must be no more than 100mm.
For balconies with a fall height of more than 4m there must not be any horizontal or near horizontal elements between 150mm and 760mm above the floor that facilitate climbing.
Numerous residential high rise buildings in Queensland have conformed to new regulations and have taken the first step in replacing their balustrade/handrail with fully compliant systems.
Building Rectification Services