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Balancing safety and appearance when specifying metal railings

Balancing safety and appearance when specifying metal railings

Bus Crash / Gorilla enclosure

There have been two very high profile examples in the media recently that highlight how fine the balance between safety and appearance can be when considering the installation of pedestrian guardrail and other metal railings or barriers.

I am of course referencing the bus crash in Harlesden, London, which left 17 people injured, and the outrage that has been caused after the little boy slipped through metal railings and fell into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati zoo.

The bus crash has been heavily criticised due to an increasing trend to de-clutter pavements by removing unnecessary street furniture and pedestrian guardrail to make the space feel more open. Whilst pedestrian guardrail can only act as a barrier to guide pedestrians safely along pavements and to approved crossing points, many believe that had it not been for this de-cluttering policy, pedestrian guardrail would have been in place and the momentum of the bus would have at least been slowed if not interrupted completely.

Moving on to the tragic events of the Cincinnati Zoo, here we have a classic case of balancing the need to ensure animals can be seen in their enclosure and having protective barriers that cannot be penetrated. In this case the little boy slipped through the infill barriers and so questions will undoubtedly be raised as to the effectiveness of the choice of barrier in this instance.

Alpha Rail has a great deal of experience of installing metal railings within public parks, gardens and other attractions that require us to consider the safety of children and our sympathy goes out to all concerned.

When installing metal railings we always give due consideration to their use and a risk assessment will identify if we need to recommend the installation of playspec railings. This is a trademarked type of metal railings designed to meet the anti-entrapment requirements of the BS EN 1176 play equipment safety standard. This standard denotes that the gaps between the railings do not exceed 89mm and therefore reduce the risk of neck entrapment.

No doubt there will be a huge enquiry in to how the little boy managed to slip through the railings and how the bus driver lost control and mounted the pavement.

It’s definitely not for us to get involved in such debates, but these two examples do highlight how fine the balance can be between safety and appearance!



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