With the Spring now approaching and the weather warming up we provide advice on assessing window and balcony safety.
Whilst it is appreciated that during the warmer months guests will want to aid ventilation and access balconies it is important to ensure that this is achieved without compromising safety.
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 through out 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 as the fatal ‘planking’ accident in Queensland, Australia this week 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.
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 open. 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.