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Loss Control - Railing and Window Safety.

Posted 6/13/2018

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RAILING AND WINDOW SAFETY

WHAT IS A BALUSTER?

A baluster is a short pillar or column, typically decorative in design, arranged in a series supporting a rail or coping. Other commonly used names for a baluster are: spindle, stair stick, picket, and rail.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT BUILDING CODE FOR BALUSTER SPACING?

In accordance with NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), open guards shall have intermediate rails or an ornamental pattern such that a sphere of 4 inches in diameter cannot pass through any opening up to a height of 34 inches.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT BUILDING CODE FOR RAILING HEIGHT?

In accordance with NFPA, means of egress that are more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall be provided with guards to prevent falls over the open side. The guards should be no less than 42 inches high.

BEST PRACTICES REGARDING RAILING SAFETY

  • Use vertical slat balusters for all railings. Horizontal or slanted railing balusters can act as an attractive nuisance and potentially invite children to climb on them.
  • If placing furniture near the railing is unavoidable, post warning signs that advise to not climb on the furniture.
  • Do not place furniture on balconies near the railing.
  • The baluster opening in the triangular area below the stair guard bottom rail and stair tread should have no more than a 6-inch opening.
  • Inspect railings and balusters regularly for any loose balusters or defects and fix the issues promptly.

BEST PRACTICES REGARDING WINDOW SAFETY

  • Install window guards to prevent children and adults from falling out of windows.
    • For windows on the 6th floor and below, install window guards that adults and older children can open easily in case of fire.
    • For windows on the 7th floor and above, permanent window guards can be installed.
  • If window guard installation is not an option, install window stops that permit windows to open no more than 4 inches.
  • Never depend on screens to keep children and adults from falling out of windows.
  • Keep furniture away from windows to discourage children from climbing near windows.

SOLUTIONS FOR UNSAFE BALUSTER SPACING

If the balusters at your property are more than 4 inches apart, the preferred solution is to redo all the railings to make the spacing compliant with current code. Here are some cost-effective solutions to make your railing safer (and not break the bank).

  • Install any of the following on either side of the railing:
    • Mesh
    • Netting
    • Plexiglas
    • Wood or lattice panels
    • Banister guards
  • Add additional balusters between the existing ones so that the opening is less than 4 inches.

Sources

  1. https://inspectapedia.com/Stairs/Guardrailing_Codes.php
  2. https://inspectapedia.com/Stairs/Stair_Baluster_Codes.php
  3. http://www.nomma.org/?page=52
  4. https://www.houzz.com/discussions/3553199/ideas-on-how-to-make-this-railing-more-safe
  5. https://www.cpsc.gov/content/new-standards-for-window-guards-to-help-protect-children-from-falls

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