How High Should a Balustrade Be? Balustrade Height Regulations
Balustrade height regulations must be adhered to when installing handrails or railings, whether at work or in the home. But how do you know how high your balustrades should be? Here, we aim to help you understand the regulations surrounding balustrades and handrails, as well as the difference between guidance and law.
Why do we need balustrade height regulations?
Safety is one of the main reasons why people install balustrades. It’s also the reason why balustrade height regulations exist. Whether in the home, on a hotel balcony or on the staircase of a commercial premises, an open edge over a height defies all kinds of health and safety regulations. However, having a railing that doesn’t meet balustrade height regulations can be just as dangerous.
Balustrade height regulations are important because they prevent people, animals and objects from falling off the edge of a high staircase or platform and causing injuries or fatalities. Balustrades also make attractive design features, which is why many people choose to install them even if they aren’t necessary. In any case, height regulations must be met to ensure everyone can use balustrades and handrails safely.
Balustrade height regulations: what does the law say?
It’s important to note that laws and codes of practice governing balustrade height regulations change periodically. Therefore, it is your responsibility to ensure you check current guidelines to make sure you’re compliant. If you’re installing balustrades in a commercial setting, you may also need to follow regulations that are specific to your industry.
The law in the UK sets out minimum height regulations for internal and external balustrades. It’s important to note that these are minimum heights. If you are installing balustrades in a school or playground, you may want to make them higher to prevent common accidents. You may also decide to make your balustrades taller for design or privacy reasons.
When installed indoors, the height of your balustrades should be a minimum of 0.9m from the point that someone is stood at the top of the balustrade. The same minimum height must be maintained all the way along the handrail. This is a minimum height requirement, and you may decide to exceed it to take into account the unique risks the building presents.
When they are placed outside, external balustrades should be 1.1m from the “datum” to the top. The datum is the technical term used to describe the point of reference where the balustrade meets the surface. For example, if the balustrade was located on the ground, then the pavement or grass would be the datum. If the balustrade was installed on a higher level (such as the upper floor of a carpark) then the datum would be whatever floor or surface you could stand or walk around on.
The law on height regulations for commercial businesses and settings may differ from general regulations on balustrade height requirements. Where there is a high footfall of pedestrians, for instance, your balustrades and railings will need to be regularly risk assessed to maximise the safety of others.
However, in all buildings that aren’t residential, guards are required where there is a difference between adjacent levels of 380mm. This applies to stairs, platforms, basements, balconies and any other areas with a “drop”.
Every business needs to know that their balconies and railings meet current balustrade height regulations. The area where balustrades are installed will need to be constantly monitored and assessed for hazards. You will need to conduct regular risk assessments and detail your findings. If an accident does occur, a health and safety executive will take a closer look at your balustrades to monitor the ongoing risks and decide if you are culpable.
What about handrail regulations?
Handrails are also important because they prevent a loss of balance at height becoming a serious fall. As such, handrails need to be in the right place, at the right height for people to grasp. The top of the handrail should be positioned between 900mm-1000mm above the floor. Stairs should always have at least one handrail if they are less than 1000mm wide. If they are wider than 1000mm, then handrails should be provided on both sides of the staircase.
Do I need balustrades or railings in my home?
The law stipulates that all landings and raised areas in single-family dwellings should be guarded where the difference between levels is greater than 600mm. So, if there is any part of floor, gallery or sunken area in or around your home where people have access, you’ll need a railing or balustrade to make the building safe – particularly for children and the elderly who are more prone to falls.
Do I need to follow height regulations if I install balustrades in my home?
Yes. You must follow balustrade height regulations in your home. The same regulations apply to landlords who rent out their properties. According to BS6180 and Building Regulations Document K, balustrade height regulations are dependent on their location within the property:
- Where there are barriers in front of a window, the minimum height from the finished floor level is 800mm.
- For stairs, landings, ramps and edges of internal floors, the minimum height is 900mm.
- On external balconies and roof edges, it is 1100mm.
You may feel that even though a balustrade guarding a landing or drop in your home meets regulations, it doesn’t feel safe. If this is the case, you should always exceed the minimum height regulations – especially if you live with small children who could easily climb over your guard.
What if my balustrades don’t meet minimum height regulations?
Every reputable installation company in the UK should be compliant with balustrade height regulations. However, if you suspect your balustrades don’t meet the legal requirements, then you need to act fast to keep others and yourself safe and reduce your risk of penalty.
While replacing your balustrades can be expensive, there are other actions you can take to minimise risks until the balustrade can be modified or replaced. Remember that any accidents could result in a major health and safety investigation and a hefty fine if you operate a business. If you’re a landlord and you’re not complaint, you could risk prosecution. You could also be responsible for the injury of others or be putting yourself at risk if you don’t follow balustrade height regulations in your own home.
Keeping everyone safe
There are strict laws governing balustrade height regulations in the UK – and for good reason. If you install balustrades commercially or domestically, you are responsible for the safety of the people who use them. Balustrades and handrails are crucial safety features, so complying with these regulations is not something to take lightly.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your balustrades, it’s always best to go beyond the minimum height requirement and act with the worst-case scenario in mind. If you’re looking to get your balustrades replaced or you’re looking for information on safe balustrade systems, please contact SHS today.
We are a leading designer, manufacturer and installer of balustrade systems and handrails, all of which are UK building regulation compliant.