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 you if you take your eyes off them for longer than a nano-second they are into something or up to something they shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, some of these accidents can be life-changing. Or 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. Whilst being being 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. Which is usually found in 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 the 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. Just in case of a fire and to use as an 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. As that will be important if you need to use the ladder in an emergency.
Netting or covers
Some parents also cover the railings of a balustrade. You can use either netting or 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. 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 alternatively use a high-quality, non-abrasive glass cleaner.
• Tough – children can lean heavily on the glass or 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. Although 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.
It’s worthwhile also completing this quiz to see how baby safe your home is.
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.