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Safety first

Written by Shereen Lurie

It is important not only to consider design, budget and space when installing your dream staircase, but also current safety regulations. Sandra Blackbeard and Dave Braithwaite from Steel Studio share their top five staircase and balustrade safety guidelines.

1. Staircases and balustrades need to be in compliance with current SANS legislations. It is important to consider the 10400 South African Building Regulations code, and also the 10160 code, which specifies the loading requirements. Any change in level in excess of 750mm requires the installation of a SANS-compliant balustrade. Additionally, staircases with a rise in excess of 750mm must also be fitted with a SANS-compliant balustrade.

2. Balustrades for residential applications may have no air gap greater than 100mm anywhere in the system.

3. Balustrades for residential applications must have a minimum height of 1m. Balustrades around swimming pools that are accessible from the road must have a minimum height of 1,2m, and must contain a self-closing gate. There may be no horizontal elements in a swimming pool enclosure, in order to prevent climbing.

4. One of the most critical parts of the structural design of a balustrade system is the method of fixing the balustrade into the substrate. With a vast array of current construction methods, including hollow-core slabs, lightweight steel structures and aerated/lightweight concrete, attention must be paid at design stage to accommodate the balustrade fixing, to allow for required SANS loading specifications. Likewise, slab thicknesses need to be taken into account to accommodate for side or top-mounted balustrades. Top-mounted balustrades should be installed into a core-drilled pocket of minimum 120mm depth, and secured with a suitable non-shrink cementitious grout, whereas side-mounted balustrades should be impact-drilled and fixed with suitable chemical anchors.

5. When selecting glazed balustrades, the thickness of the glass is vital, and has to be tested by means of a 400 Joule soft body impact test by a competent person, such as a professional structural engineer.


Shereen Lurie

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