Window and Balcony Safety

Published: 18 Jul 2019

Recently, a Bride and Groom were celebrating their wedding day in a hotel in Scotland. The Groom was making his way to the honeymoon suite whilst carrying cards and gifts, he lost his footing on the stairs and went to grab the banister, but instead fell through a large gap. He is now in an induced coma fighting for his life. This fall from height reminds us of the importance of considering the implications of poorly managed risk areas. As Summer is now upon us, the risks associated with the use of open windows and balconies increases,  so we look at what should be done to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

During these warmer months it is likely that guests may open windows to increase air flow and try to reduce temperatures. The use of room balconies also increases. It is important to ensure that safety is not compromised.

It is imperative that as a business you make a precautionary judgement as to the safety of windows and balconies. This is a health and safety obligation and should be facilitated through the completion of a risk assessment.

If windows and balconies are designed in the same way throughout a building then a general assessment may be sufficient identifying potential hazards such as persons or objects falling, evaluating the likelihood of this happening and detailing how controls help reduce it further.

If, however, building design / age means that window styles vary, specific assessments may be required for specific areas.

It can be extremely costly to eliminate the hazard associated with windows and balconies and would require securing openings and major investment in air conditioning equipment. This is generally an unreasonable investment to expect to have to make. A risk assessment, however, with sensible and proportionate controls is not.

It just takes one incident such a fatality to bring the eyes of the media onto your business even if the building integrity is sound and management procedures are in place.

Factors to consider when evaluating risk associated with windows and balconies:- (the list is not exhaustive)

  • The height above ground level of the window / balcony
  • The integrity and condition of the window / balcony fabric
  • The positioning of furniture / planters near windows / balconies which have the effect of lowering the balcony height
  • The level of supervision / management control in the vicinity of the window / balcony
  • The efficacy of a smoking policy (does this give rise to unauthorised smoking in areas that compromise safety?)
  • The nature of the clientele – families, children, students. Behaviour patterns and alcohol / substance abuse
  • Existing levels of signage / information on safe use
  • Maintenance / housekeeping checks and records

Action recommended

 Complete or review separate risk assessments on the use of windows and (where applicable) balconies

  • Ensure that window restrictors are fitted correctly on windows that could be a risk if opened. It is recommended that windows open no more than 100mm.(10cm)
  • Ensure that there is a method in place for checking that the restrictors are operating effectively. Housekeeping staff should have this on their room servicing checklist
  • Balconies must meet building regulation requirements with a handrail of 1.1m, infill to avoid objects falling and designed to inhibit climbing on horizontal sections

For advice and support please contact CSC