While definitely a glamorous addition, a balcony balustrade’s main function is beyond mere aesthetics—rather, it is a safety handrail designed to prevent accidents and disasters. Today, many schools have at least one balcony on campus, and its balustrades are often seen as mere tools for aesthetic impact. However, these balustrades are the fine line protecting students from accidents, and improper installation could heighten this danger.
The Dangers of Balustrades
According to statistics, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) admits nearly ten children each year on average from balcony accidents. A majority of these accidents occur at the safety of their own homes, putting even more pressure on schools to improve their security and safety for such hazards.
More often than not, the accidents related to balconies and balustrade can be classified into two types: entrapment and falls.
Entrapment occurs when a child gets any of their extremities stuck in between the balustrade openings. Curious children playing around a balcony often find themselves testing out whether they can fit into the gaps of the balustrades. While it may seem like a harmless action, children may find their arms, legs, or even their heads stuck. Extraction may be painful and may be recommended to be done with the assistance of medical professionals.
Falls, on the other hand, occur when a child falls off the balcony for whatever reason. A baby could slip through the balustrade openings, or a more athletic child may climb over the balustrade and slip on the safety handrail.
The National Construction Code of Australia’s Guidelines
Proper installation of safety handrails is a necessity to avoid accidents and disasters from happening. In regard to this, the National Construction Code of Australia has stipulations and guidelines for the design and installation of balustrades.
In a gist, the balustrades or safety railings must be at least one meter high, while its openings must not allow a 12.5 cm spherical object from passing through between it. For balconies with a height of at least four meters above ground, an additional stipulation notes that it must not have horizontal or near horizontal (climbing) parts between 15cm and 76cm above the floor surface.
Impact on schools
While schools maintain a standard of safety and security for all its students, educators may not be able to keep an eye on all its constituents at all times. Accidents are bound to happen at off times, whether it’s in-between classes or after everyone is dismissed. As such, appropriate safety measures should be applied prior to any accidents happening to minimise such risks.
The installation of safety handrails on staircases and balconies are a basic solution. Ensure that these are at least a meter high and that the bars between are no more than 12.5 cm apart. Making an effort to remove any surfaces or furniture—potted plants, boxes, and drawers included—that children can use to climb over these railings will also lower accident risks. More importantly, checking the condition of stairs, balconies, and all safety devices regularly will ensure that they are still optimal for securing the safety of your students.
Balustrades and safety handrails can pose a serious safety hazard if not implemented correctly. Ensuring the proper working condition of these safety precautions should be made a regular practice, else it wouldn’t do its job of ensuring that accidents won’t occur. This is why choosing a proper contractor to handle the installation while following the appropriate safety guidelines is a must.
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