Family-friendly safety

Danny Openshaw from UAP discusses the role of the humble window restrictor in ensuring windows offer family-friendly safety.

With UK temperature highs topping 32º this summer, windows up and down the country have been flung open to let fresh air in. The problem is an open window can also be a health hazard.

RoSPA figures indicate that around 4,000 children aged 15 and under fall from windows every year in the UK. 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.

Meanwhile, in care home environments, the need to ventilate for cooling and infection risk purposes must be balanced with risk factors, such as wandering, disorientation and, in some cases, the determination of residents to ‘escape’. And in schools and nurseries, there are safety and safeguarding issues to consider.

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 100mm using window restrictors than can only be removed with the aid of a special tool or key.

With different types of window restrictor to choose from, which is the best choice?

For properties where there are risk factors for either the very young or the very old, a lockable window restrictor is the most appropriate choice because this provides a robust defence against falls, while allowing ventilation and enabling windows to be opened 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.

Push-to-lock models are an alternative to lockable window restrictors. This type locks securely but can be opened without a key, making it easier 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, such as hotels and offices.

Window restrictors offer a low cost and easy fit addition to any window, saving lives and delivering value far beyond their price.