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Posted on 20th April 2016

Balustrades are installed to prevent the risk of falls from stairs, terraces and balconies but even the smallest of design errors can result in health and safety failure.

So who has design responsibility? For architect-designed schemes with a named balustrade specialist, responsibility for safety of design and installation lies with the balustrade company. ‘Contractor’s choice’ specification is much riskier, however, as health and safety may depend on exact fabrication of the balustrades to the architect’s calculations and meticulous installation on site without the expertise of a balustrade specialist.

There are numerous factors governing health and safety of balustrade systems, including European and UK legislation, local authority building controls and the client’s own requirements. All installation must comply with various sections of current building regulations, including Part K (protection from falling, collision and impact), Part M (access to and use of buildings) and Part B (fire safety), and it is the responsibility of the specifier to ensure compliance.

The specifier must also ensure that the balustrades meet all relevant BS and EN standards, both in their specification and their installation methodology. They must also ensure that the system is CE marked in compliance with the Construction Products Directive. What that means in practice, is building expert understanding of loading and height requirements into the balustrade design, along with a detailed understanding of base fixing, glass specification and glass fixing requirements.

The safety critical nature of balustrades and the complexities of ensuring that they are safely specified and installed all point to the importance of working with a balustrade specialist.  What’s more, a balustrade company will not only be able to ensure that project-specific calculations are correct and that all CE marking, building regulations and BS/EN requirements are met, they can also help with CAD drawing and BIM.

So when it comes to design responsibility, it’s always best to share it with the experts.