In this article, we will discuss the different regulations and standards for balustrading, where they apply and why they make balustrades a legal requirement in specific applications in the UK.
It is essential to make sure your balustrade does comply with building regulations where it is required to do so, as failure to adhere to these regulations can delay the building being signed off or add additional complications when coming to sell your property.
The regulations and requirements can be challenging to understand and comprehend. Still, we will go through which regulatory documents apply and click through on the links to dive deeper into each.
What building regulations apply to balustrading?
Building regulations (or building codes) in the United Kingdom are statutory regulations defined by the Welsh and English governments. They seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are adhered to. Building regulations approval is generally required for new buildings, conversions, renovations, and extensions (both domestic or commercial) to ensure they will be safe, healthy and high performing.
The following Building Regulation documents apply to balustrades and handrails:
- Approved Document K
Approved Document K is a building regulation document providing guidance on protection from falling, collision and impact.
It outlines the measures needed to protect from falling, including fitting safety measures on staircases, ramps and ladders, and advice about the positioning of balusters, vehicle barriers and windows to avoid injury.
This document is particularly relevant to building a loft conversion and contains guidance about building a staircase for access to the loft.
Read more on Document K in our further articles :
- Approved Document K what it is & how it applies to balustrades and handrails – A brief summary
- Approved Document K what it is & how it applies to balustrades and handrails – A deep dive
2. Document M
Document M is a building regulation document covering access to, and the use of, buildings by everyone, including disabled people. It took effect on 1 October 2015 and was amended in 2016. This covers requirements for balustrades and handrails, both internally and externally.
Approved Document M is split into two parts:
- Volume 1 relates to Dwellings
- Volume 2 relates to buildings other than dwellings.
There are three key ‘categories’ outlined in Document M – visitable dwellings, accessible and adaptable dwellings and wheelchair user dwellings and includes information to help all building users to move through a building easily, including in toilets and bathrooms.
Guidance is included on ramps and steps with information, including safe degrees of pitch and dimensions when building a wheelchair accessible facility. The construction of accessible stairs and corridors is also addressed, including the safe height of stairs and the accessible width of both corridors and stairs.
The document also provides guidance on the access and use of extensions made to buildings other than dwellings and access to toilets, bathrooms and sinks within these structures.
What british standards apply to balustrading?
British Standards are standards produced by the BSI Group, which is incorporated under a royal charter and formally designated as the national standards body for the UK.
The primary British Standards that apply to or cover balustrading are:
1. BS 6180 2011
BS 6180 2011 gives the latest recommendations and guidance for constructing barriers in and around buildings. This document looks at the use of balustrades, covers the design of barriers, use of materials, fixing methods, and gives guidance on loadings and allowable deflections.
2. BS 6399-1 & BS EN 1991-1-7:2006
BS 6399-1 (now withdrawn but still referred to) & BS EN 1991-1-7:2006 are the generally recognised codes of practice for the minimum recommended dead and imposed loads in buildings. The portion of BS EN 1991-1-7:2006 that is relevant to balustrading and handrails is table 4, and this gives the recommended minimum load requirements based on the type of building occupancy.
3. BS 5395
BS 5395 provides recommendations and codes of practice for designing straight flights and winders in part 1 and helical & spiral stairs in part 2.
4. BS 8300
BS 8300 provides guidance on the design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. It is a considerable document covering an extensive range of aspects from toilets to staircases!
5. BS EN 12600:2002
BS EN 12600:2002 specifies a pendulum impact test method for single flat panes of glass used in buildings. The test is intended to classify flat glass products into three principal classes by performance under impact and by mode of breakage.
Are british standards actually a legal requirement for balustrading?
British standards are actually just guidelines and not law. They are not published for free; they need to be purchased from BSI. But remember, while they aren’t law, this doesn’t mean they are exempt from legal considerations. Their application could be directly demanded by regulatory instruments or inclusion in a commercial contract.
If you comply with a British Standard, then it’s evident that you take your responsibilities seriously, and indeed compliance is often taken as proof of due diligence.
British Standards are usually seen as the best practice benchmark by the Courts, and failure to follow them could make defending a claim difficult.
What CE marking applies to balustrading?
The letters CE mean that the manufacturer or importer affirms the good’s conformity with European health, safety, and environmental protection standards on commercial products. It is not a quality indicator or a certification mark. Before you place a CE marking on a product, you need to establish which EU New Approach Directives apply to the product and identify the applicable harmonised standard (or set of procedures and rules you need to follow to ensure the safety and quality of that product).
The critical part to remember is that you must not attach a CE marking to a product outside the scope of the directives. In simplistic terms, you can’t follow the rules (directive/ harmonised standard) that apply to making a broom (if there is such a standard!!) when you make a kettle and then apply a CE mark to it.
Currently, there is no CE harmonised standard that applies to balustrading and handrails, so it is illegal to apply a CE mark to these products.
There has been considerable confusion throughout the entire construction industry as to exactly what is covered within the scope of the Construction Products Regulation and, more specifically, what falls within the scope of the harmonised standard EN1090-1.
EN1090-1 was explicitly developed to establish critical criteria for the safe production of steelwork that is supporting (or holding up) a building. Therefore to apply a CE mark to a balustrade based on EN1090-1 could mislead the consumer (or purchaser) into believing that the balustrade has been made to the best, approved European Standard for balustrades when the European Commission have never drawn up a standard to cover balustrades. So, in fact, although certain aspects of EN1090-1 are relevant to balustrades, there is no guarantee that it is any better than applying a CE mark based on the European Standard for electric kettles!
The European Commission has now advised us, in writing that:
- The European Commission’s mandate to CEN was to develop a harmonised standard but was LIMITED to products that have a structural function for the works (i.e. their collapse will cause the collapse of the building).
- Therefore balustrades can NOT and must NOT be CE marked under EN 1090-1.
- If you need (voluntarily) to apply EN 1090-1 for the production of balustrades, you can do it, but you cannot CE mark the product based on EN 1090-1.
- They agree with the following statement and have put this forward to the technical committee as the recommended text to be added to the list of exclusions on the website:
- Balustrades and handrails, provided they do not structurally support any part of the building or civil engineering work, are excluded from the CPR requirement for CE marking.
Information is given as a guide and is not intended to be exhaustive. It remains the reader’s responsibility to take specific independent advice and comply with local legislation.