High rise window laws take effect

Australian kids are about to be afforded a new level of safety in new apartment buildings throughout the country from 1 May.

A recent string of accidents involving children falling from windows in apartment blocks has led to changes in the National Construction Code. Under the building code changes, from 1 May all new apartment blocks in Australia will be required to have window locks fitted, preventing windows from opening more than 12.5cm.

The changes have been introduced as a result of an increase in the number of children being injured after falling from open windows in apartment buildings. As research indicates, even if a window of 12.5cm is fitted with a fly screen, a child is still not safe from a potentially deadly fall.

Strata Community Australia (Qld) believes these regulations are fundamental to improving protection and safety of children in strata communities. Simon Barnard, SCA (Qld) president, says the issue is one relevant to strata communities and apartment blocks across Australia, and all strata schemes should consider upgrading to the new requirements.

“These new regulations are about ensuring the safety of residents in strata communities, so it is relevant in strata communities everywhere,” he said today.

Mr Barnard stressed that the building code changes only apply to new buildings in Australia and that existing buildings would not be required to install the window locks retrospectively. “When you start making changes to the building code and expect existing strata communities to comply to changes retrospectively, the costs can quickly become exorbitant.

“My understanding is that owners and residents of already-existing buildings won’t come under the laws, but will be encouraged to purchase window locks from hardware stores. This is obviously a much more cost-effective solution in that circumstance. But it is important to plan for the future, which is why all new buildings in Australia will have the locks installed as a condition of being built, from May this year,” Mr Barnard said.

Looking toward international examples, in the United States National Window Security Week is observed nationally and is designed to heighten the awareness of what can be done to keep families safe from risk of accidental falls. In New York, where window locks are compulsory, the result was a 96% reduction in child fall hospital admissions.

Under s30 of the Building Act 1975 (Qld), all new buildings, in order to be certified, must comply with the Building Code of Australia. The National Construction Code is updated every year, so it is important for all strata communities to constantly check when safety and building requirements change.

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