HANDRAILS BALUSTRADES REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS
As important as they are for our safety, we tend to take balustrades for granted. We may admire their appearance, but when using a handrail for support on stairs or while leaning against a balustrade on a balcony, we give little thought to the fact that it has to be high enough to provide an effective barrier and sturdy enough to support our weight. We don’t need to think about these things because government regulatory bodies already have and builders are required by law to adhere to balustrade regulations and standards.
Building codes and standards are established on a federal level by the nationally recognised Building Code of Australia (BCA). BCA standards apply to all phases of construction, from foundations and house frames to important details like balustrades. Specifically, BCA 2012 Parts 3.9.1 (stairs) and 3.9.2 (balustrades) and Australian Standard 1170.1 cover regulations to enable people to move safely between levels of a building. These regulations cover balustrades on stairways, balconies, verandahs and other surfaces between levels.
BCA BALUSTRADE REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS
By law, a balustrade or other barrier must be constructed wherever the difference in height between one floor or surface is greater than one metre from an adjoining floor or surface. A balustrade is defined as a rail and its balusters (posts or other supporting members). BCA regulations state that a balustrade must:
• Be at least 1 metre high as measured from the finished floor;
• Have openings between risers or posts no greater than 125mm; and
• Be able to withstand loads and impacts as determined by AS 1170.1
The height regulation of 1 metre ensures the balustrade is high enough to provide prevention against falling over the balustrade. The openings between risers or posts cannot be greater than 125mm to prevent children from falling between them. Load and impact regulations are designed to ensure balustrades can resist impact or will not collapse when pressure is applied to them from any direction.
HANDRAILS BALUSTRADES SAFETY
Even the most well-constructed balustrade can fail to adhere to BCA standards over time. One of the more common problems is the application of flooring over the top of an existing floor. BCA regulations state that the balustrade must be 1 metre or more higher than the finished floor. Renovators often tile or carpet floors without thinking about the fact that their flooring material raises the level of the finished floor without raising the level of the balustrade.
Time can take its toll on the materials and fixings that make balustrades strong. If a timber balustrade becomes wobbly, it may be because some of the timber has rotted or because fixings have rusted or come loose. Concrete balustrades can suffer from “concrete cancer” (spalling) and tension wire installed between posts can become loose.
Balustrade regulations and standards apply to all balustrades, not just the construction of new ones. The regulations are there for a reason: to protect people from danger. If you’ve been taking your balustrades for granted, now is the time to have them inspected. The repairs you do today can prevent a serious injury tomorrow.