Owners and occupiers of all types of buildings should conduct regular checks on balustrades and railings in their premises to ensure they meet Building Code of Australia requirements and are safe to use.
Checks and upkeep of balustrades and railings, particularly of timber construction on domestic decks and balconies, should be part of an ongoing building maintenance program. If not properly maintained balustrades can fail, resulting in serious injury or even death.
The Building Commission has prepared advice for commercial, public and residential property owners and occupiers to assist in ensuring balustrades and railings are compliant with all aspects of the current Building Code of Australia. Building standards have changed over time but have no retrospectivity. The standard required for balustrades by the current Building Code of Australia is one metre measured from the adjacent floor. Owners should give consideration to upgrading to the current standard if they do not meet it. Checks should also be made where tiles or some other paving or floor finish may have been applied after the balustrade was installed.
Balustrades must be compliant and safe in the following areas:
With balustrades made of reinforced concrete, care should be taken to check for spalling, or ‘concrete cancer’, where the steel reinforcing within the concrete corrodes, weakening the structure. This can be obvious, with the steel exposed through the concrete, but it can also occur without obvious signs, so it is a good idea to have it checked by specialists in the field.
Balustrades or barriers involving steel rails or posts may be susceptible to rust or corrosion and should be inspected and painted with an anti-rust coating as protection against the elements.
Where balustrades using steel (or timber) posts and handrails or tensioned wire are installed, it is essential that all aspects of the building code relating to the use of wire are adhered to: these relate to size and tension of the cable and the distance between cables and supports forming the balustrade. It is also essential that the steel or wood remains solid to support the tensioning.
Balustrades with toughened glass panels are used in both commercial and domestic situations. It is important to ensure the correct glass has been used and the means of attaching the glass is regularly checked to ensure it is safely attached to the balustrade structure. Any cracked or broken glass panes must immediately be replaced to reduce the risk of injury.
Make sure that fixings i.e. metal stirrups to floors, bolts, screws etc are not compromised or loose.
Safety is important and should be the number one priority. These issues are often picked up through regular building maintenance checks. Make sure you schedule checks for your property.