Building standards technical handbook 2019: domestic

The building standards technical handbooks provide guidance on achieving the standards set in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. This handbook applies to a building warrant submitted on or after 1 October 2019 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

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 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.

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 prevent intended access route or be incompatible with the normal use of an area, such as to the edge of a loading bay.

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

To ensure a person can be aware of the presence of a protective barrier it should, unless within a dwelling or 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 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. However the space between a rise in a stair and the lowest edge of the protective barrier may be larger than 100mm, provided the lowest edge of the barrier is not more than 50mm above, and parallel to, the pitch line of the stair.

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.

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 of a height as follows:

Table 4.7. 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 wholly within a dwelling 840 [3]
On a stair or ramp flight outwith a dwelling 900 [3]
To a gallery, landing or raised area within a dwelling 900
All other locations 1100

Additional information:

  1. A handrail provided in accordance with clauses 4.3.14 and 4.3.15 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.

4.4.3 Guarding to the edge of ramps

Where a continuous pedestrian protective barrier is not provided 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.

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