Decks and Balconies Safety Guidelines in Queensland
Australians in general and Queensland, in particular, are very savvy and precise about deck and balcony safety. In recent years, there have been a number of accidents and even deaths related to both falls from decks and balconies, and the collapse of them, according to the Queensland Deck, Balcony and Window Safety Guide. I recently sat down with my mate Justin Brownless (Brownie) from Pro Decks Brisbane and discussed safety requirements.
In fact, Queensland State reminds local Australians that nearly 6 percent of all Australian homes have timber decks or balconies according to another Queensland website at Maintaining Decks and Balconies and around 2 percent could lead to fatal injuries from falls or collapsed decks.
And the phenomenon is certainly not alone in Australia. In September, The New York Times reported 22 people injured in deck collapse at Jersey Shore, which made worldwide headlines.
What Safety Requirments are Required in Queensland concerning decks and balconies
First of all, regarding decks and Balustrades a row of small columns topped by a rail to prevent people from falling down):
- Where a deck or balcony is one meter or higher above the ground, balustrades need to be a minimum of one meter high.
- Decks more than one meter above the ground must have balustrades with openings that are not too large, which is defined as 125 millimeters.
- For decks more than four meters above the ground, balustrades cannot have any climbable elements near the floor.
Requirements for stairs
For stairs, a barrier is required, with a minimum of at least 865 millimeters high above the ‘nosing’ of the stair treads is required, which must:
- Not have gaps in the balustrades on stairs greater than 125 millimeters
- For stairs more than four meters in height, a balustrade must also not have any climbable elements near the floor.
Important safety concerns
Fulfilling the legal requirements for decks, balustrades and stair railings are plenty of reasons why a good contractor is necessary, otherwise, the government, in inspecting your home, may require a teardown of a deck or balustrade. But legality is not enough. There are both ordinary safety concerns and specific, deck and timber-related issues that apply.
In terms of ordinary safety, consider:
- Children are the most vulnerable, and frequent accidents happen when they climb on or pass through balustrades
- Another common reason for accidents is children climbing on deck furniture
- And of course, children should not be allowed to play on decks unsupervised
Adults most often fall from:
- Using alcohol or drugs on the deck
- Sitting atop the balustrades to relax, or take photos
- Balustrade failure
- Extreme overloading of decks and balustrades with large, out of control parties
Environmental issues related to decks and balustrades
In addition to playing it safe, there are many structural issues to take into account. Frequent problems include:
- Decay and Moisture Issues
- Water damage from plants that leak out on the deck
- Rotting wood, particularly in balustrades
- Coastal effects such as salt, wind, and sand
A not infrequent event, particularly with teenagers or college people is deck overloading. Thirteen people on a deck at the same time can exhibit the same force as parking a full car on the deck, and that’s if they are stationary. If there is heavy dancing, particularly in instances where there are structural failures and stresses, disaster can and often does occur.
Another thing that people do is install a jacuzzi, hot tum or above ground pool on their deck. Don’t. A single gallon of water weighs close to 4 kilograms, so if you add the weight of 8 to 10 people, you are potentially adding thousands of tons of weight to your deck.
Have an expert inspect annually
Finally, get an expert to inspect your deck, balustrade, and stairs annually to see there is no decay, rotten wood, deterioration of nuts, bolts, and screws, rusting of steel posts, warped or cracked bracing, and cracked ledgers or post plates.