Read our guide to window Health & Safety for the 2nd floor of buildings, and above, and discover how the regulations apply to a wide range of domestic and commercial buildings. Whether you are responsible for social housing, a private residential property, education, health or care buildings, or an office, the guide will help you to understand the relevant legal obligations.
The starting point for considering the health & safety of the 2nd floor of buildings is that all public organisations have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment. With regards to windows on the 2nd floor, and infact anything above ground level, the major consideration is preventing injuries from falls. However there is also a legal requirement to provide adequate ventilation and so simply installing non-opening windows often isn’t an acceptable solution.
The risks and requirements differ depending on the setting and we will look at these now.
Social Housing Associations
Providers of social housing need to provide an environment that is safe for a wide range of vulnerable tenants. Insurance provider Zurich advises in this article that “Housing associations providing supported accommodation on behalf of local authorities should not rely too heavily on mental health or NHS trust risk assessments. Where a referral is made, the housing provider should carry out its own risk assessment, focusing on the suitability of the type of accommodation for the tenant.”
HSE Guidance is clear that where risk assessments identify that people using services are at risk from falling from windows at a height likely to cause harm (i.e. above ground floor level), suitable precautions must be taken. Where windows are large enough to allow people to fall out, openings should be restricted to 10cms or less, and it should only be possible to disengage restrictors using a special tool or key.
Social housing providers may prefer to err on the side of caution and fit window restrictors as standard on all windows from the 1st floor and above to prevent the risk of missing a potential risk to a vulnerable tenant who may move into a property.
Private Domestic Landlords
Private residential landlords are legally required to provide homes that are safe and secure. In Ireland, since 2017, there has been a legal requirement for every rental property to have ‘Suitable Window Restrictors’ on windows that have an opening section through which a person may fall, and where the bottom of the opening section is more than 140cm above external ground level. The safety restrictors must not require a key to release.
There is no explicit requirement for landlords in England, Scotland or Wales to fit window restrictors. Our advice to landlords and to homeowners is that if there are children or older vulnerable people in the home a window restrictor is a low cost way to prevent a potentially fatal fall and so why wouldn’t you fit them on 2nd floor windows, or any floor above ground level?
Health Care and Care Homes
Clearly those in hospital and care homes are at risk of a window fall due to disorientation, confusion or disturbed mental state. HSE guidance is clear here that window restrictors are required above the 1st floor in these settings.
HSE guidance states that in these settings the restrictor and fixings must only be capable of being overridden by the use of a tamper-proof tool such as a key (so a push and twist lock for example would not be acceptable).
All educational establishments, especially those for children, must by law restrict the opening of windows at 1st floor and above to no greater than 100mm.
Providing sufficient ventilation in schools is not as simple as opening windows though, because, as mentioned above, schools need to adhere to the regulations around window safety in schools. The Health and Safety Regulations state that:-
Open windows should not project into an area where people are likely to collide with them (e.g. walkways/play areas). Either window opening restrictors must be fitted or a means provided to prevent people walking/running close to the opening windows (e.g. barriers/shrubs).
In special schools, and maintained schools which have students who might try to jump out of windows above ground level, the following additional requirements also apply to windows on floors above surface level:
- The restrictor and fixings must only be capable of being overridden by the use of a tamper-proof tool (e.g. the standard window restrictors which can be pressed to over-ride are not adequate, nor are screw fixings which could be undone using an object to turn them);
- The window frame/restrictor must be suitably robust enough to withstand foreseeable forces a determined individual might apply in trying to open the window further and against potential damage (either accidental or deliberate).
All workplaces must be adequately ventilated and all employers, including schools, should undertake a risk assessment of all rooms including identifying poorly ventilated rooms.
Hotels and B&Bs
Alcohol, drugs, extreme tiredness, disorientation and mental instability can cause accidents. Not only do they consider adults, but children too, as children learn by exploring the environment they are in – it is for this reason that larger hotels and hotel chains use hotel window restrictors to cover themselves against any type of tragedy involving windows. In older historic buildings, there may be limitations on installation and restricting window use may become more difficult.
Building regulations window restrictors
Although Building Regulations differ between local authorities, and restrictions will vary depending on the intended purpose of the building – prevention and protection from falling is an important part. See UK Government Building Regulations section K2 “Protection From Falling” for further reading.
The regulations state that protection from falling is required in the following situation,
“Where a person may fall through a window above ground floor level, provide suitable opening limiters, to restrain the window sufficiently to prevent such falls or guarding.”
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