Having an open edge over a height, either at home or in a commercial premises is not safe. It may lead to falls that could have serious outcomes. However, it is not just a case of having any kind of barrier to prevent falls, is to have a barrier that is sufficient in height to prevent anyone falling, accidentally or otherwise, over the edge of a balcony, staircase, platform and so on.

The balustrade is therefore, an important component. Not only can be a design feature, it is also an essential safety mechanism. No matter where the balcony or staircase and so on is installed, whether in the home or in a business setting, the edge must be met by balustrade and railing in order that everyone can use them, and do so safely.

But what is the code of practice when it comes to balustrades? How can you be confident your design meets the legal requirements?

The legal requirements

There is a difference in minimum heights of balustrades for those that in inside and those that are outside.

Internally, the height of the balustrade from the point that someone is stood on to the top of the balustrade should be a minimum of 900mm. This height must be maintained all the way around the top of the handrail.

Externally, this height changes. The balustrade from should be 1100mm from datum to the top.

What is ‘datum’?

Datum is the technical term used to describe the point of reference. To say the ground would be incorrect if the balustrade is on a first level floor. Thus, datum refers to the point of reference on which people will be stood, walking around and do on.

These are minimum heights. You may decide as part of your design to increase the height of a balustrade which can be important in many cases. Consider what and where the balustrade is to be used for? You may want to consider the possibility of children being in the area and the need to ensure that the balustrade is of sufficient height to discourage accidental falling from climbing.

In fact, it is for this last reason why the laws concerning the height of balustrades in commercial and business settings were changed. It became apparent as the building of shopping malls and precincts became apparent that the height of balustrades was not sufficient to stop children falling over balconies.

It is important to note too, that in a commercial setting, especially where there is a high footfall of pedestrians, that the balustrade and railings are continually risked assessed to provide information on whether they are still providing maximum safety to users.

Regulation and certification

Everyone needs to be aware and active on a number of points about the safety of their buildings. The balustrade and handrails are just two factors that need to meet, if not exceed current safety guidelines.

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