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K – Protection from falling, collision and impact

The Approved Documents are ‘standard’ ways of getting Building Regulations approval. There are other ways. see more

If you follow the principles and rules given in the documents you can be sure that they will be approved. Of course you don’t have to use the Approved Documents, as the Regulations make clear:

Approved Documents are intended to provide guidance for some of the more common building situations. However, there may well be alternative ways of achieving compliance with the requirements. Thus there is no obligation to adopt any particular solution contained in an Approved Document if you prefer to meet the relevant requirement in some other way.

In fact the Approved Documents are a bit of a mishmash of traditional ‘rules of thumb’ and technical standards and they have gaping holes in them. Whereas, for instance, there are many pages on how to construct traditional masonry walls, there is nothing about timber frame construction except the odd reference to British standards.

They are also struggling to keep up with the times. If the Passivhaus Standard or zero energy new house building is introduced at some point then whole swathes of the Approved Documents will need rewriting because many of the constructional principles are based on quite low levels of insulation.

There are other ways of satisfying the regulations. For instance they make copious references to BS, BS EN and BS EN ISO standards which may be another way of fulfilling the criteria. It is even possible in some very rare cases to prove that something works by building it first and then testing it afterwards (though this is not for the faint hearted).

Although a self builder cannot be expected to understand all the building regulations, it often pays to have a grasp of what is involved, especially if last minutes changes need to be made to construction details.

The full official set of Approved Documents is available HERE.

The full official Approved document K is available HERE


Below is an edited extract from Approved Document, K : Protection from falling, collision and impact, with notes for self builders. The purpose is to draw attention to the main aspects of the document. If in doubt check the full Approved document K.

Section 1: Stairs and ladders

Scope

See also: Staircase Design,

1.1  The guidance provided in this document covers internal and external steps and stairs when they are part of the building. Additional guidance is provided in Approved Document M when external stepped access also forms part of the principal entrances and alternative accessible entrances, and when they form part of the access route to the building from the boundary of the site and car parking. See Approved Document M Section 1 (for buildings other than dwellings) and Section 6 (for dwellings).

Steepness of stairs – rise and going

1.2  Measure the rise and going as shown in Diagram 1.1. (For steps with tapered treads, see also paragraphs 1.25–1.27.)

1.3  In a flight of steps, for all steps use the measurements for rise and going given for the three stair categories in Table 1.1 below. Use any rise between the minimum and maximum with any going between the minimum and maximum, that complies with the relevant note contained in table 1.1.

See the Self Build Central on line calculator for straight stairs (and there are calculators for narrow and wide spiral and helical stairs)

Notes:

[1] The maximum pitch for a private stair is 42°.

[2] For dwellings, for external tapered steps and stairs that are part of the building the going of each step should be a minimum of 280mm.

* The normal relationship between the dimensions of the rise and going is: twice the rise plus the going (2R + G) equals between 550mm and 700mm.

For existing buildings the dimensional requirements in Table 1.1 should be followed, unless due to dimensional constraints it is not possible. Any alternative proposal should be agreed with the relevant building control body and included in an access strategy (refer to Approved Document M).

Construction of steps

See why using Parana pine is not a green option for staircase construction

For all buildings:

1.5  Have level treads on steps, ensuring that the rise and going of each step are consistent throughout a flight of steps and are in accordance with Table 1.1.

For dwellings:

1.9  Steps may have open risers if they comply with both of the following guidance.

  1. Overlap treads by a minimum of 16mm.
  2. Construct the steps so that a 100mm diameter sphere cannot pass through the open risers.

For common access areas in buildings that contain flats

1.10  Provide a stair with steps that comply with all of the following guidance.

  1. Make step nosings apparent: use a material that will contrast visually, 50mm to 65mm wide on
  2. the tread and 30mm to 55mm on the riser. Use a suitable tread nosing profile, as shown in Diagram 1.2.
  3. Use risers which are not open.

Headroom for stairs

For all buildings

1.11  On the access between levels, provide the minimum headroom shown in Diagram 1.3.

For buildings other than dwellings and for common access areas in buildings that contain flats

1.12  Provide all means of escape routes with a minimum clear headroom of 2m, except in doorways.

For loft conversions in dwellings

1.13  Where there is not enough space to achieve the height shown in Diagram 1.3, provide the reduced
headroom shown in Diagram 1.4.

Width of flights of stairs

For dwellings

Note that in England there is no minimum width of stairs except as shown in clause 1.16 but obviously it is necessary to make them wide enough for people to use properly and for the movement of furniture etc.
For Scotland see table 4.5 here

1.16  In exceptional circumstances where severely sloping plots are involved, a stepped change of level within the entrance storey may be unavoidable. In those instances ensure that stairs within the entrance storey of a dwelling have flights with a minimum stair width of 900mm.

Length of flights of stairs

For all buildings

1.17  If stairs have more than 36 risers in consecutive flights, make a minimum of one change of direction between flights, as shown in Diagram 1.6

Landings for stairs

For all buildings

1.19  For means of escape requirements, refer also to Approved Document B: Volume 1 – Dwellinghouses, and Volume 2 – Buildings other than dwellinghouses.

1.20  At the top and bottom of every flight, provide landings the width and length at least as great as the smallest width of the flight (see Diagram 1.6).

1.21  A landing:
  1. may include part of the floor of the building
  2. should be kept clear of permanent obstructions
  3. may have doors to cupboards and ducts that open over a landing at the top of a flight, as shown in Diagram 1.7, but only when they are kept shut or locked shut when under normal use.

1.22  Landings should be level, with the following exception.
A landing at the top or bottom of a flight that is formed by the ground may have a gradient, provided that:
  1. the maximum gradient along the direction of travel is 1:60
  2. the surface is paved ground or otherwise made permanently firm.

For dwellings

1.24  A door may swing across a landing at the bottom of a flight, but only as shown in Diagram 1.8.

Special stairs

See the Self Build Central on line calculators for narrow and wide spiral and helical stairs)

Tapered treads

1.25  For the rise and going, comply with paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3. For the going of tapered treads, use the measurements shown in Diagram 1.9.

1.26  For consecutive tapered treads, use the same going.

1.27  If a stair consists of straight and tapered treads, ensure that the going of the tapered treads is not less than the going of the straight treads.

Spiral and helical stairs

1.28  Design spiral stairs and helical stairs in accordance with BS 5395-2.

Alternating tread stairs in dwellings

1.29  You may use alternating tread stairs – in one or more straight flights – only in a loft conversion, and only when there is not enough space for a stair that satisfies paragraphs 1.2–1.24, and the stair is for access to only one habitable room and, if desired, a bathroom and/or a WC (although this must not be the only WC in the dwelling).

1.30  The construction of an alternating tread stair should comply with all of the following.

  1. Comply with Diagram 1.10.
  2. Make alternating steps uniform with parallel nosings.
  3. Have slip-resistant surfaces on treads.
  4. Ensure that the tread sizes over the wider part of the step are in line with the dimensions in Table 1.1.
  5. Comply with paragraph 1.9b.
  6. Provide a minimum clear headroom of 2m.

Fixed ladders

In dwellings

1.31  Do not use retractable ladders as means of escape. Refer to Approved Document B: Volume 1 – Dwellinghouses, and Volume 2 – Buildings other than dwellinghouses.

1.32  You may use a fixed ladder – with fixed handrails on both sides – only for access in a loft conversion that contains one habitable room, and only when there is not enough space without alteration to the existing space for a stair that satisfies the guidance for dwellings in paragraphs 1.2–1.24.

Handrails for stairs

For all buildings

1.34   Provide handrails in accordance with all of the following.
  1. Position the top of the handrail 900mm to 1000mm from the pitch line or floor.
  2. The handrail may form the top of a guarding if you can match the heights.
  3. If the stairs are 1000mm or wider: provide a handrail on both sides.
1.37   In exceptional circumstances where severely sloping plots are involved, a stepped change of level within the entrance storey may be unavoidable. In those instances, if a flight comprises three or more risers, provide a suitable continuous handrail in accordance with both of the following.
  1. On each side of the flight.
  2. On each side of any intermediate landings

Guarding of stairs

For all buildings

1.38   Design the guarding to be the height shown in Diagram 3.1.

1.39   In a building that may be used by children under five years of age, construct the guarding to a flight of stairs to do both of the following.
  1. Prevent children being held fast by the guarding: ensure that a 100mm sphere cannot pass through any openings in the guarding.
  2. Prevent children from readily being able to climb the guarding.
1.41   Provide guarding at the sides of flights and landings when there is a drop of more than 600mm.

Section 2: Ramps

Scope

2.1   The guidance provided in this document covers internal and external ramps when they are part of the building. Additional guidance is provided in Approved Document M when external ramped access also forms part of the principal entrances and alternative accessible entrances, and when they form part of the access route to the building from the boundary of the site and car parking. See Approved Document M Section 1 (for buildings other than dwellings) and Section 6 (for dwellings).

Steepness of ramps

For all buildings

2.3   Ensure that the relationship between the gradient of a ramp and its going between landings is as shown in Diagram 2.1.
NOTE: A floor level with a gradient of 1:20 or steeper should be designed as a ramp.

Design of ramps

For all buildings

2.8   Design all ramps and landings in accordance with Diagram 2.2.

Obstruction of ramps

For all buildings

2.10   Keep ramps clear of permanent obstructions.

Handrails for ramps

In dwellings and for common access areas in buildings that contain flats

2.12   Provide all of the following.
  1. For ramps that are less than 1000mm wide: provide a handrail on one or both sides.
  2. For ramps that are 1000mm or more wide: provide a handrail on both sides.
  3. For ramps that are 600mm or less in height: you do not need to provide handrails.
  4. Position the top of the handrails at a height of 900mm to 1000mm above the surface of the ramp.
  5. Choose handrails that give firm support and allow a firm grip.
  6. The handrails may form the top of the guarding if you can match the heights.

Landings for ramps

For dwellings and for common access areas in buildings that contain flats

2.14   Provide landings for ramps, as described for stairs in paragraphs 1.19–1.22 and 1.24.

Guarding of ramps

For all buildings

2.15   Provide guarding for ramps and their landings at their sides in the same way as stairs (see paragraphs 1.38–1.41).

Section 3: Protection from falling

Siting of pedestrian guarding

The LABC publish guidance on guarding to windows

For all buildings

3.1   Provide guarding in all of the following locations:
  1. where it is reasonably necessary for safety to guard the edges of any part of a floor (including the edge below an opening window), gallery, balcony, roof (including roof lights and other openings), any other place to which people have access, and any light well, basement or similar sunken area next to a building
  2. in vehicle parks.
NOTE: You do not need to provide guarding in the following locations:
  1. on ramps used only for vehicle access
  2. in places such as loading bays where it would obstruct normal use.

Design of guarding

For all buildings

3.2   Guarding should be provided in accordance with all of the following.
  1. Ensure that guarding is, as a minimum, the height shown in Diagram 3.1.
  2. You can use any wall, parapet, balustrade or similar obstruction as guarding.
  3. Ensure that guarding can resist, as a minimum, the loads given in BS EN 1991-1-1 with its UK National Annex and PD 6688-1-1.
  4. Where glazing is used in the guarding, refer also to Section 5 in this approved document.
NOTE: Typical locations for guarding are shown in Diagram 3.2.
For further guidance on the design of barriers and infill panels, refer to BS 6180.

3.3   In a building that may be used by children under five years of age during normal use, guarding should be constructed in accordance with both of the following.
  1. To prevent children being held fast by the guarding: ensure that a 100mm sphere cannot pass through any openings in the guarding.
  2. To prevent children from readily being able to climb the guarding: avoid horizontal rails.

Guarding of areas used for maintenance

For all buildings

3.4   Where people will use the stairs or ladders to access areas for maintenance they should comply with one of the following.
  1. If access will be required frequently (e.g. a minimum of once per month): follow provisions such as those suggested for dwellings in this Approved Document (see Diagram 3.1).
  2. If access will be required less frequently than once a month: it may be appropriate to use temporary guarding or warning notices. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005 give provisions for such measures.
3.5   Use signs as specified in the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996.

Section 4: Vehicle barriers and loading bays

Vehicle barriers

For all buildings

4.1   If vehicles have access to a floor, roof or ramp which forms part of a building, provide barriers at any edges which are level with or above the floor or ground or any other route for vehicles (see Diagram 4.1).

4.2   Barriers should be provided in accordance with all of the following.
  1. You can use any wall, parapet, balustrade or similar obstacle as a barrier.
  2. Construct barriers to be, as a minimum, the height shown in Diagram 4.2.
  3. Ensure that barriers can resist the loads given in BS EN 1991-1-1 with its UK National Annex and PD 6688-1-1.

Loading bays

For all buildings

4.3   Loading bays should be constructed with exit points in accordance with both of the following.
  1. Provide loading bays with a minimum of one exit point from the lower level, as near the centre of the rear wall as possible.
  2. For wide loading bays (for three or more vehicles), provide a minimum of two stepped exit points, one on each side, or provide a refuge where people can avoid the path of a vehicle in addition to one stepped exit point (see Diagram 4.3).

Guarding for loading bays

For all buildings

4.4   Where there is a danger of people falling, loading bays should be provided with guarding as per the guidance provided in this approved document. If
guarding is not practical for the particular circumstances, alternative safeguards should be provided and agreed with the building control body.

Section 5: Protection against impact with glazing

Glazing in critical locations

see more on window design

For all buildings

5.1   Diagram 5.1 shows critical locations in terms of safety.

5.2   In critical locations, comply with one of the following
  1. Ensure that glazing, if it breaks, will break safely (see paragraphs 5.3 and 5.4).
  2. Choose glazing that is one of the following:
    (i)   robust (see paragraph 5.5)
    (ii)  in small panes (see paragraphs 5.6 and 5.7).
  3. Permanently protect glazing (see paragraph 5.8).

Safe breakage

5.3   Safe breakage is defined in BS EN 12600 section 4 and BS 6206 clause 5.3. In an impact test, a breakage is safe if it creates one of the following.
  1. A small clear opening only, with detached particles no larger than the specified maximum size.
  2. Disintegration, with small detached particles.
  3. Broken glazing in separate pieces that are not sharp or pointed.
5.4   A glazing material would be suitable for a critical location if it complies with one of the following.
  1. It satisfies the requirements of Class 3 of BS EN 12600 or Class C of BS 6206.
  2. It is installed in a door or in a door side panel and has a pane width exceeding 900mm and it satisfies the requirements of Class 2 of BS EN 12600 or Class B of BS 6206.

Robustness

5.5   Some glazing materials such as annealed glass gain strength through thickness; others such as polycarbonates or glass blocks are inherently strong. The maximum dimensions for annealed glass of different thicknesses for use in large areas forming fronts to shops, showrooms, offices, factories and public buildings with four edges supported are shown in Diagram 5.2 (see also paragraph 7.1).

Glazing in small panes

5.6   In the context of this approved document, a ‘small pane’ is an isolated pane or one of a number of

panes held in glazing bars, traditional leaded lights or copper lights (see Diagram 5.3).

5.7   Small panes should be provided in accordance with all of the following.
  1. In a small annealed glass pane, use glass with a minimum 6mm nominal thickness  except in the situation described in b.
  2. In traditional leaded or copper lights, when fire resistance is not important, you may use 4mm glass.
  3. Use the dimensions and areas shown in Diagram 5.3.

Permanent screen protection

5.8   If glazing in a critical location is protected by a permanent screen then the glazing itself does not need to comply with requirement K4.

The permanent screen should comply with all of the following.
  1. Prevent a sphere of 75mm from coming into contact with the glazing.
  2. Be robust.
  3. If it protects glazing installed to help prevent people from falling, be difficult to climb (e.g. no horizontal rails).
See Diagram 5.4.

Appendix A: Key terms

The following are key terms used in this document:

Accessible entrance

An entrance which is accessible to people regardless of disability, age or gender.

Alternating tread stair

A stair with paddle-shaped treads where the wide portion is on alternate sides on consecutive treads (see paragraphs 1.29 and 1.30).

Barrier 

A structure – either a raised rail or a solid wall – that denies access to another area.

Common stair

Serving more than one dwelling.

Contrast visually

The perception of a visual difference between two elements of the building, or fittings within the building, so that the difference in light reflectance value is of sufficient points to distinguish between the two elements.

Flight

A continuous series of steps or a continuous slope (ramp ) between landings. (For the widths and lengths of flights see paragraphs 1.14–1.24.)

General access stair

A stair intended for all users of a building on a day-to-day basis, as a normal route between levels.

Going

For stairs: the depth from front to back of a tread, less any overlap with the next tread above (see paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3). (For the measurement of the going on tapered treads see paragraphs 1.25– 1.27.)

For ramps: the length of the ramp between landings.

Guarding

A barrier that denies pedestrians or vehicles access to another area, for example the floor below (see Diagrams 3.1 and 3.2).

Handrail

A rail, at hand height or a little higher, for people to hold for support. (For handrails for stairs, see paragraphs 1.34–1.37; for handrails for ramps, see paragraphs 2.11–2.12.)

Helical stair

A stair in a helix around a central void (see paragraph 1.28).

Ladder

A means of access to another level, formed by a series of rungs or narrow treads. People normally ascend or descend facing the ladder. (See paragraphs 1.31–1.33.)

Light reflectance value (LRV)

The total quantity of visible light reflected by a surface at all wavelengths and directions when illuminated by a light source.

Nosing

The leading edge of a stair tread.

Pitch

The angle of inclination (slope) between the horizontal and a line connecting the nosings of a stair.

Private stair

A stair intended to be used for only one dwelling.

Principal entrance

An entrance which a visitor not familiar with the building would normally expect to approach.

Radial gangway

A gangway at an angle to the rows of seats/wheelchair spaces or a stepped gangway in tiered seating.

Ramp

A slope steeper than 1:20, on which a pedestrian or wheelchair user can move from one level to another (see Section 2).

Rise
The height between consecutive treads (seeparagraphs 1.2 and 1.3).

For ramps: the vertical distance between each end of the ramp flight.

Spiral stair

A stair in a helix around a central column (see paragraph 1.28).

Stair width

The clear width between the walls or balustrades.

Tapered tread

A step in which the going reduces from one side to the other (see paragraphs 1.25–1.27).

Utility stair
A stair used for escape, access for maintenance, or purposes other than as the usual route for moving between levels on a day-to-day basis.

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