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CROSS Safety Report

Modifications to balustrades in a shopping centre

Report ID: 336 Published: 1 July 2013 Region: CROSS-UK

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A reporter raises concerns about balustrades on a balcony at an existing shopping centre which they feel may not be adequate for their purpose.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • Glazing design is often carried out by a specialist contractor. If the glazing is to withstand crowd loading this requirement should be conveyed to the contractor

  • Where specialist systems are used, it is beneficial to have a close working relationship with the supplier from the earliest opportunity to ensure design requirements are met

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


A reporter was asked by a fabricator about balustrades on a balcony at an existing shopping centre. A previous contractor had repaired the balustrade and replaced glass infill panels, but additional work was needed. The reporter was concerned that the balustrades would not stand up to the currently required loadings.

The reporter knows that the glass which has been used for infilling is laminated and not toughened. They believe the balcony could present a serious risk as the section sizes do not appear to be adequate.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

Weakness in balustrades can be highly dangerous since the prime loading, and indeed the only loading, is from crowds and hence a failure could well result in severe injury. Laminated glass is generally accepted as suitable for resisting barrier loadings and its mode of failure is tolerable in that it cracks but does not create shards, always provided of course that the pane as a whole is retained in its supports.

In changing from one type of material to another, replacing toughened with laminated glass for example, careful consideration needs to be given to the whole system including thickness of glass and support types. Barriers in shopping centres can be subject to severe crowd loading, and so need to be designed and installed appropriately.  

CROSS report 61 which discussed balustrades in public buildings stressed the importance of having properly designed and constructed balustrades, particularly in buildings to which the public have access. In the case of a modification such as is described here it may be appropriate to discuss the works with the local authority. Information on this specialist field may be found from the Glass and Glazing Federation and in BS 6262-4:2005, Glazing for buildings.

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