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CROSS Safety Report

Open balustrade balconies over a public highway

Report ID: 495 Published: 1 October 2015 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter raises concerns about the construction of a large residential development adjacent to a public highway where the balconies over sail the footpath.

They are concerned that nobody has fully considered the risk to the public of small - but heavy – objects falling from these balconies onto pedestrians below.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all built environment professionals:

  • If you notice a potential safety issue not during the course of your work, consider reporting it to the owner or tenant

  • If the owner is not known, then the appropriate regulator could be informed

Full Report

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Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others. If you would like to know more, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.

A reporter has watched the construction of a large residential development adjacent to a public highway where the balconies over sail the footpath. Even though some of these balconies are on the upper floors, they only have vertical infill bar balustrades with 100mm gaps between the bars.

They are concerned that nobody has fully considered the risk to the public. Small – but heavy – objects (e.g. coins, bunches of keys, small heavy toys, etc.) could fall from these balconies between the gaps in the bars, from a considerable height, onto pedestrians below.

The reporter would be interested to know whether this had been included in the risk assessment by the designers. They also cannot understand why the planning or highway authorities have not picked this up when issuing Section 177 projection licenses under the Highways Act 1980.

Whilst the balconies may satisfy building regulations, they present an unnecessary hazard in the view of the reporter that could have been easily prevented with a solid parapet (e.g. glass or perforated metal sheet).

Expert Panel Comments

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Building regulations do not cover items being dropped from buildings, and nothing in the guidance requires gaps to be less than 100mm. However, there is a clear risk here which should be considered. Is this risk greater than someone dropping something over the top of the balustrade or out of a window?

Risk assessment is the role of the designer and it is quite foreseeable that items could be accidentally dropped. Such assessment would take into consideration the number, frequency, and proximity of pedestrians. Whilst not similar to the hazard of dropping items from the top of balconies or through their balustrades, workplace requirements (The Work at Height Regulations 2005) include for toe boards to prevent items being pushed off scaffolds and the like.

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