A guide to balustrade height regulations

Clearly, having an open edge over a height, either at home or in a commercial premises is not safe. It could lead to falls that could have serious consequences in more ways than one. However, just as bad as not having any kind of barrier to prevent falls, is to have a balustrade that is not sufficient in height to prevent anyone falling, accidentally or otherwise, over the edge of a balcony, staircase, platform and so on.


The balustrade is therefore, an important component. Not only can be a design feature, it is also an essential safety mechanism. No matter where the balcony, platform, staircase and so on is installed, whether in the home or in a business setting, the edge must be met by balustrade and railing in order that everyone can use them, and do so safely.

But what is the code of practice when it comes to balustrades? How can you be confident your design meets the legal requirements?

Note: Regulations governing building in both domestic and commercial settings change over time. If you are creating and installing a balustrade, it is your responsibility to check current guidelines and for any regulations that may be specific to your industry or sector.

The law

There is a difference in minimum heights of balustrades for those that in inside and those that are outside.

Internally, the height of the balustrade from the point that someone is stood on to the top of the balustrade should be a minimum of 0.9m. This height must be maintained all the way around the top of the handrail.

Externally, this height changes. The balustrade from should be 1.1m from datum to the top.

What is ‘datum’?

Datum is the technical term used to describe the point of reference. To say the ground would be incorrect if the balustrade is on a first level floor. Thus, datum refers to the point of reference on which people will be stood, walking around and do on.

These are minimum heights. You may decide as part of your design to increase the height of a balustrade which can be important in many cases. Consider what and where the balustrade is to be used for? You may want to consider the possibility of children being in the area and the need to ensure that the balustrade is of sufficient height to discourage accidental falling from climbing.

In fact, it is for this last reason why the laws concerning the height of balustrades in commercial and business settings were changed. It became apparent as the building of shopping malls and precincts became apparent that the height of balustrades was not sufficient to stop children falling over balconies.

It is important to note too, that in a commercial setting, especially where there is a high footfall of pedestrians, that the balustrade and railings are continually risked assessed to provide information on whether they are still providing maximum safety to users.

Regulation and certification

Every business needs to be aware and active on a number of points about the safety of their buildings. The balustrade and handrails are just two factors that need to meet, if not exceed current safety guidelines.

For health and safety reasons, the balustrade standards will need to be met but, it is more than just about building a balustrade and leaving it at that.

The area needs to be constantly monitored and assessed for hazards. Even if balustrades do meet these height regulations, should an accident occur, the health & Safety Executive will be taking a close look at the component itself, but also at risk assessment records.

When you spot a problem…

Act fast. It is an expense however, to deal with a balustrade that no longer appears to be doing its job as well as it needs to. There are financial implications to replacing whole sections of balustrade and handrail, which can present significant difficulties to businesses.

There are all kinds of actions that can be taken to negate any identified hazard until the balustrade can be modified or replaced. It is important that any business takes steps to do so, otherwise any accidents could result in serious implications, including a hefty fine.

In summary

The rule governing balustrades heights and use in business and commercial settings are stringent – and for a reason. You are responsible for the safety of your staff and any members of the public who use your building.

The balustrade is about providing an effective barrier to prevent people falling from height and the handrail is an important safety feature too. Always maintain them in good order!


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