Publication - Advice and guidance

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: non-domestic buildings

The Building Standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and are available in two volumes, Domestic buildings and Non-domestic buildings. This publication is available in html and also in PDF format (in 'supporting documents' ).

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: non-domestic buildings
4. Safety

4.4 Pedestrian protective barriers

Mandatory Standard

Standard 4.4

Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that every sudden change of level that is accessible in, or around, the building is guarded by the provision of pedestrian protective barriers.


This standard does not apply where the provision of pedestrian protective barriers would obstruct the use of areas so guarded.

4.4.0 Introduction

Protective barriers are necessary to prevent people in and around buildings from an accidental fall at an unguarded change of level.

In assessing the type of barrier to be used, the likely hazards, the use of the building and the risks to the people that may be present should all be considered. Any barrier should minimise the risk of persons falling or slipping through gaps in the barrier.

Young children are often adept at climbing anything within their reach. It is important that the design of protective barriers restrict the ability of young children to climb them, thereby reducing the possibility of injury from falls.

Existing Buildings - it is acknowledged that some existing non-domestic buildings have protective barriers that were designed or constructed with gaps large enough that a child could pass through or that can be easily climbed. Those responsible for these buildings may wish to consider assessing the suitability of these barriers. Where children could be in the building the assessment should consider what risk reduction measures are required. Further information on the assessment of existing protective barriers is provided in the guidance leaflet 'Are Your Barriers Safe' which is available to view or download at

Conversions - in the case of conversions, as specified in regulation 4, the building as converted shall meet the requirements of this standard in so far as is reasonably practicable, and in no case be worse than before the conversion (regulation 12, schedule 6).

4.4.1 Location of pedestrian protective barriers

In the interests of safety, protective barriers should be provided where there is a sudden change in level and the possibility of severe injury from a fall.

At a change of direction on an access route, a drop of any height can be a hazard, particularly to a wheelchair user or a person with a visual impairment. A protective barrier should be provided both where a significant drop occurs and in locations where a smaller change of level may increase the risk of injury.

It is not practical to provide a barrier at every change in level, but a protective barrier for pedestrians should be provided at the edge of:

  1. every floor, stair, ramp, landing, raised floor or other raised area to which people have access, where there is a difference in level of 600mm or more, and

  2. any change in direction on an access or circulation route which is raised above the level of the surrounding surfaces.

However there is no need to provide a protective barrier in a location which would block an intended access route or be incompatible with the normal use of an area, such as to the edge of a loading bay or theatre stage.

A wall, partition or area of fixed glazing, constructed in accordance with the recommendations of clause 4.4.2, may act as an appropriate barrier.

To ensure a person can be aware of the presence of a protective barrier it should, unless forming part of a wall or partition, contrast visually with surrounding surfaces. If a barrier is principally glazed, the recommendations for marking given in clause 4.8.2 should be followed.

4.4.2 Design of pedestrian protective barriers

In and around non-domestic buildings gaps in any protective barrier should not be large enough to permit a child to pass through. To ensure this, openings in a protective barrier should prevent the passage of a 100mm diameter sphere.

A protective barrier should be designed and constructed so that it cannot be easily climbed by young children. The provision of potential hand and footholds should be minimised.

The likelihood of children being present should be accepted for all non-domestic buildings other than where their presence within the building, or part thereof, is precluded for valid reasons such as health and safety restrictions. In these buildings, where there are valid reasons for the preclusion of children, the above guidance on openings and potential hand and footholds within the protective barriers need not apply.

Typical examples of buildings where access for children may be precluded are within agricultural, industrial and warehouse buildings. Children may also only be precluded from specific parts of buildings, for example, where access is solely to or within a plant room forming part of an office building.

In all buildings, openings may be more than 100mm between a rise in a stair and the lowest edge of a protective barrier, provided the lowest edge of the barrier is not more than 50mm above, and parallel to the pitch line of the stair.

Historic Buildings - in certain cases, buildings may be of historic interest, listed (under planning legislation) or may be located in a conservation area. Alterations to these buildings may impact on the architecture or character of the building. In these circumstances, where a protective barrier has to be altered to protect children, it may be necessary to adopt a solution that is sympathetic to the character of the building. Guidance on this matter is contained within the 'Guide for practitioners 6 - Conversion of traditional buildings' issued by Historic Scotland.

A protective barrier, and any wall, partition or fixed glazing accepted instead of a barrier should be secure, capable of resisting loads calculated in accordance with BS EN 1991-1-1 and the associated PD 6688-1-1 and be a height as follows:

Table 4.5. Height of pedestrian protective barriers

Location Minimum height (mm) [1]
At the edge of a floor in front of walls, partitions and fixed glazing incapable of withstanding the loads specified in BS EN 1991-1-1/PD 6688-1-1 800
In front of an openable window 800 [2]
On a stair or ramp flight 900 [3]
Directly in front of, or behind fixed seating 800 [4]
All other locations 1100

Additional information:

  1. A handrail provided in accordance with clauses 4.3.13 and 4.3.14 may form the top of a protective barrier if the heights in this table are met.

  2. Protective barriers should be installed where the opening window has:

    1. a sill that is less than 800mm above finished floor level, and

    2. an operation that will allow the possibility of falling out, and

    3. a difference in level between the floor level and the ground level of more than 600mm.

    At 2 storeys or more above ground level, reference should be made to clause 4.8.4 where external glazing is cleanable from within the building.

  3. Where a handrail forming the top of a protective barrier to a flight meets a protective barrier to a landing, the height of the latter may be reduced for a distance not more than 300mm to permit a smooth junction.

  4. Barrier height may be reduced to 750mm where it has an overall width at the top of at least 250mm. At the foot of a gangway leading to fixed seating, the height of a protective barrier should be 1.1m.

4.4.3 Guarding to the edge of ramps

Where there is not a continuous pedestrian protective barrier to the edge of a ramp flight, a kerb upstand of at least 100mm high should be provided to any open side of the flight where there is a drop of any height. However the use of an upstand kerb alone in open landscaping is not recommended as it may present a potential trip hazard.

Alternatively, an external ramp flight may be provided with a landscaped margin, level with the edge or the ramp for a distance of 600mm before any grading.