Danny Openshaw from UAP Ltd, the specialist in safety and security hardware for windows and doors, discusses the role of the humble window restrictor in specifying family-friendly developments
RoSPA figures indicate that around 4,000 children aged 15 and under fall from windows every year in the UK: a figure that is both alarming and entirely preventable. And yet there is no specific legal requirement to fit window restrictors to new homes – even those specifically designed for families – leaving it up to individual occupiers or landlords to retrofit them if restrictors have not been provided as part of the specification at build.
Approved Document B1 of the Building Regulations guidance does states that ‘window locks may be fitted to egress windows subject to the stay being fitted with a release catch, which may be child resistant’. While the installation of locks can be useful in preventing falls, this non-mandatory guidance only addresses locks used to secure the window shut, which still leaves occupiers without the option of keeping the window safely open for ventilation and cooling.
As window restrictors are such a low cost, simple to fit item, isn’t it time that developers fitted them as standard on all windows and balcony doors at first floor level or above?
There is certainly support for routine installation of window restrictors on domestic dwellings from organisations concerned involved in improving safety.
RoSPA’s policy is for window restrictors to be fitted to all windows at or above first floor level. The Society also advises that window restrictors should be sufficiently secure to prevent children from removing them, but that it should be possible for adults to bypass the restrictor in case of a fire or other emergencies.
The HSE advocates the use of window restrictors too. The Executive advises that window openings should be restricted to 100 mm or less and that specifiers should select window restrictors than can only be removed with the aid of a special tool or key.
It is important to note that window locks and window restrictors play different roles. While locks are there for security and are most vital at ground floor level where the property is vulnerable to intruders, window restrictors are there for safety and are most vital at first floor level and above, where falls through the aperture are more likely to cause injuries.
Consequently, window restrictors have an important role to play in their own right, but which type should be fitted for domestic properties?
How to choose the right window restrictor
The right choice of window restrictor depends on the building design and the type of occupier and it is advisable to select the most flexible solution to meet the property’s needs.
For properties aimed at families, a lockable window restrictor is the most appropriate choice because this provides a robust defence against children falling from windows while allowing ventilation and enabling adults to open the window fully if escape is required. It is important to select a window restrictor that is EN 13126-5:2011 + A1:2014 compliant, which means that the total opening of the whole length of the window aperture must be less than 89mm when in use for child safety, and 100mm for other environments. To meet this standard, multiple restrictors may need to be fitted, depending on the size of the window.
The window restrictor should be very strong – UAP’s lockable window restrictors have been machine tested to withstand pressures of 250kg, for example – but opening by an adult should be as simple as possible, with a universal key for all windows. In this way, any window restrictor the property can be released quickly in an emergency, and lost keys can be replaced.
An alternative to lockable window restrictors are push to lock models, which lock securely but can be opened without a key. These work in the same way as child-safe medicine bottles to enable convenience for adults while keeping children safe. The advantage is that no key needs to be found to fully open the window in the event of an emergency.
Finally, a fixed window restrictor can be an ideal choice for environments where there will never be a need to use windows as a means of escape. These cannot be opened once fitted and are most often used in hotels, offices and other tall buildings.
With both houses and apartment blocks becoming taller to maximise the potential yield of development sites, the need for window restrictors to protect future occupiers – and young children in particular – has never been greater. The trend for designing balconies and roof terraces into properties also highlights the potential dangers for family occupiers, even if edge protection is in place for the outdoor area, and it is useful to note than window restrictors can also be used for patio doors.
The pandemic has not only resulted in a need for homeowners to be able to ventilate their properties safely in order to keep the virus at bay, it has also resulted in cultural changes. The focus on family and wellbeing has never been greater and window restrictors are a simple, low cost way to accommodate that mood.