Balcony Safety in Apartment Buildings

Each year, several shocking and heartbreaking deaths are caused due to accidental falls from balconies. 5% of accidental deaths in India were caused due to ‘falls’ in 2019. Most recently, the tragic death of a toddler was reported in Thane where the child opened the sliding approach door to the balcony and fell from the balcony of the seventh floor. Balcony safety is not a trivial matter, especially if you have children or young adults in the family.

To prevent any deaths, accidents, or injuries, residents must exercise precautions in

1) inspecting the sturdiness of the balcony’s existing railings, and

2) establishing safety installations over and above the basic balcony structure.

Balcony construction

Ensure that your balcony is constructed in compliance with the National Building Code which states that, “Parapet walls and handrails provided on the edges of roof terraces, balcony, veranda, etc. shall not be less than 1.0 m and not more than 1.2 m in height from the finished floor level.” It means handrails should be 3.44 feet and not less or else it poses a safety issue. 

The code also states that any balcony at a height of 2 meters or more from the ground, should have safety railings. Guidelines state that “Every slab or balcony overlooking any exterior or interior open space which is 2 meters or more above ground level shall be provided with parapet walls or guard rails of height not less than 1.20 meters and such guard rails shall be firmly fixed to the walls and slabs and shall be of blank walls, metal grills or a combination of both.” Usually, full concrete railings are safer but if they are made of metal, the gap between the metal grills shouldn’t be too wide for little children to fit through (not more than 10 cm). There shouldn’t be any horizontal grills or foot-supporting enclosures to step up so that kids (or adults) don’t climb up top of the railings. Guard railing should not be made of glass or any material that is not reinforced. The ledge should be such that it’s impossible to sit on so that no one is tempted to sit on it for leisure or shenanigans. As an extra step, you can install spindles between railings bars to prevent any mishaps.

It’s been found that builders who might want to cut corners don’t adhere to guidelines during construction. Some disregard the building code to make the balconies and facades look more aesthetic and attractive. Such non-compliance could play a big role in causing accidental falls and in many cases, even death. If such is the case in your residential building, do bring it to the managing committee’s attention so that further safety measures can be used. Landlords should inspect the conditions of their balconies before they let tenants move in.

Safety precautions for residents

Even if the construction of the balcony is as per specifications, there’s always the danger of accidental falls and injuries. Follow these balcony rules for apartment buildings, to guarantee safe balconies:

  • If you’re living in an older building, make sure you get an expert to check the structural integrity of the balcony and the railings.
  • Balcony furniture should be placed away from the railings. It should be heavy so that kids don’t drag it over to the railings to play with or use it to climb up and stick their necks out. 
  • Balcony doors should have a keyed lock and be placed higher so that toddlers and kids can’t reach up to open it. Never leave kids or pets unsupervised in balconies (whether it’s a high-rise balcony or not). 
  • Winds are strong in high-rise balconies. Don’t hang loosely fitted decorative items made of glass or other sharp objects in ways that it can harm anyone. Furniture in balconies should ideally be bolted in to protect against rains and storms and so that it can’t be dragged around towards the railings.

Balcony safety installations

You have several options to reinforce your balcony structure to ensure high-rise balcony safety. Here are some of them: 

1. Grills

You can choose from regular metal, wrought iron, stainless steel grills, or go for Invisible Grille that won’t block the view while maintaining sturdy security. If the approaching door to balconies is made of sliding windows, you can install lockable grills there as well.

2. Plexiglass

Toughened plexiglass is a great way to cover and shield the area in between and above the railings. It won’t spoil the view and provide additional security. You can have sliding plexiglass windows with locks as well so that air circulation isn’t blocked.

3. Wire mesh

Protection wire and metal mesh are the most commonly used balcony safety solutions in residential societies.

4. Balcony gate

As an additional measure that is aesthetic as well, you can simply install a child-proof balcony gate that adults can attach/detach or keep locked unless adults are around for supervision. 

Make a list of dos and don’ts for all members of the family and domestic help with respect to balcony safety. Children should be thoroughly educated on the dangers of playing carelessly around the railings or leaning over them. Ensure that if there are any psychologically disturbed friends, colleagues or family members at risk of suicide, you keep them away from balconies and don’t leave them unsupervised. 

Also Read: Bathroom Safety for The Elderly

Swimming Pool Rules in a Residential Society

Audit of a Co-operative Housing Society

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