Decks and balconies pose several hazards to babies and small children. Inquisitive in nature, babies and children learn by ‘sampling’ the world around them.
This means that take your eyes off them for longer than a nano-second, and they are into something or up to something they shouldn’t be.
Unfortunately, some of these accidents can be life-changing and at worse, fatal. Balcony railings can lead to children becoming wedged, leading to injury and suffocation. There are also heart-breaking stories of children slipping beneath or through balcony railing or falling from height.
As well as adult supervision, there are changes you can make to make a balcony or decking as safe as possible.
At Balustrade Components, we ensure that our railings and balustrades are fit for purpose, as well as safe for everyone to use. But with your children – babies and toddlers in mind – we suggest extra steps you can take to make your balustrade as safe as possible for all the family.
In the UK, there are a series of regulations that govern how balustrades and railings are built and that meet these stringent standards.
For example, the regulations specify minimum heights for balustrades. Inside the home, they must stand from the floor on which they are fixed to the height of the handrail at a minimum of 0.9m. Outside, the handrails and balustrades are expected to stand a little higher at 1.1m.
ALWAYS check the latest standards and regulations for up to date measurements.
As well as height, there is also a maximum gap specified in the width between balusters or spindles in balustrades. This must be 10cm or smaller. This prevents inquisitive children poking their heads through.
On one hand, it can be a funny story for the 18th birthday party to remind them of the time they got their head stuck in the balcony railings but on the other hand, it can lead to injuries. There are also cases in which children have died of these injuries as a result.
It is important to understand that these rules and regulations relating to balconies and balustrades have not always been in force. Therefore, balconies and balustrades that pre-date these UK regulations cannot be relied upon to meet these standards.
Also, it is worth noting that balconies and balustrades in European and countries worldwide can also not be relied upon to have been built to the same high standard as modern balconies, railings and balustrades in the UK.
Ladders and access points
Some balconies and railings will have access points such as ladders. Again, for a toddler that is enjoying exploring his or her world, this ladder can make an enticing and exciting prospect to climb.
Removing the ladder solves the problem but, in some cases, it may be essential that the ladder is in situ, such as a fire or emergency escape.
When this is the case, using a piece of tough Perspex fitted inside of the ladder stops little feet and hands from getting a grip on the rungs of the ladder. However, make sure it is quick and easy to remove in the case that you will need to use the ladder in an emergency.
Netting or covers
Some parents also cover the railings of a balustrade either with netting or with plastic sheets that are tough.
This is a tool that stops children from slipping through gaps, wedging their hands, feet or heads in the gaps.
The netting or plastic shield needs to be fitted correctly and securely, as if it works loose it can cause a problem too.
Use toughened glass infills
The other solution is to use toughened glass infills as part of a balcony or balustrade.
• Easy to clean – all they take is a wipe down with a damp, soapy cloth or use a high-quality, non-abrasive glass cleaner.
• Tough – children can lean heavily on the glass, as well as knock things against it but it is unlikely to shatter or break. In fact, toughened glass balustrade infills are more likely to chip at the corners but again, this takes significant impact over a period of time.
• Minimal gaps around the edge and post sections – glass infills fit well within the frame and this means the gaps for trapping heads and other body parts is so small that the possibility is almost minimal.
Supervision is key
However, like most things, supervision is key to keeping babies, toddlers and children save in both the familiar and unfamiliar environments.
Balustrade Components design, create and install balustrades that meet and exceed current regulations, making their products and projects some of the safest busy parents can install in their homes and in the garden too.