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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All Hands on Deck: How Safe is Your Balcony or Deck?

A Melbourne balcony rail collapse that injured three people has prompted a pre-festive-season warning from architects about the safety of Australia's balconies and decks.

Pre-purchase inspections conducted by the Royal Australian Institute of Architect's buyer inspection service revealed that 6per cent of Australian homes had a timber balcony, and 2 per cent of these had the potential to cause life-threatening injuries.

These figures indicate around 8000 balconies in Australia could be life-threatening, and last week 3 people were injured when they fell 7m after a balcony rail collapsed. And this is not the first time: balcony collapses in several states in recent years had resulted in several injuries and deaths.

Coastal properties had the greatest risk because of the harsh environment and corrosion caused to metal fittings.

Clearly, people need to inspect their balconies and decks for rotting timbers and rusting fittings.

Particularly given the approaching festive season, these areas would be used for Christmas drinks, lunches and dinners, and many are likely to be overloaded, with people leaning on balustrades or balcony rails.

Clearly apart from possible injury or death to family members or friends, home owners would be foolish to ignore the legal liability which could arise from a collapsing deck which is proven to be in poor repair.

While balconies and timber decks had become important parts of Australian homes, many timber decks built in the 1960s and 70s were illegal because they had been built using inappropriate timber, some of which was now rotten and unsafe.

Whether you have a balcony or raised deck, whether timber, concrete or steel, please inspect the structure for shaky hand rails and balustrades, rust stains and cracking. If you find faults please take immediate action to repair them or seek professional advice if you are unsure. Simon Turner

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