x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Municipality orders protective barriers for balconies and swimming pools on all new buildings

The Dubai Municipality directive requires construction companies to install handrails on balconies and swimming pools in all new buildings.

Municipality engineers Sultan Bushalat, left, and Ahmed Abdul Kareem check that a balcony on a building in Al Nahda 2 area of Dubai meets the new safety requirements. Pawan Singh / The National
Municipality engineers Sultan Bushalat, left, and Ahmed Abdul Kareem check that a balcony on a building in Al Nahda 2 area of Dubai meets the new safety requirements. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Child-safety campaigners have welcomed a ruling by Dubai Municipality requiring protective handrail barriers to be installed around swimming pools and on balconies in all new buildings.

The directive, sent out to all building companies, architectural firms and developers, requires the minimum height of the railings to be 90cm to help prevent fatal falls and drownings.

“Safety of the people is the first priority of the civic body,” said Marwan Al Mohammed, the acting director of the municipality’s buildings department. “We don’t want to hear of any more tragic stories in our city.

“Hence, all consulting and contracting companies should ensure the availability of handrails for balconies and swimming pools in all new buildings with immediate effect, in line with the specifications stipulated by the civic body.”

The directive states that safety railings should be installed in such a way that they cannot be easily tampered with or avoided by children.

“It should not allow kids to climb on or creep though it,” said Mr Al Mohammed.

“It is recommended to put a protecting fence of a minimum 90cm height around the swimming pool, with a lockable door and a warning system as kids touch the door or rail when they are not allowed to use it.

“It is also good to have an alarm whenever the pool is not attended by the rescue staff.”

The announcement was welcomed by Tracy Fountain, the founder of Abu Dhabi-based child-safety website Back to Basics.

“It’s excellent news because we have been waiting for it to happen for some time now,” she said.

“It’s an important first step in protecting children in these buildings, but it should also go hand in hand with an awareness campaign.”

Ms Fountain urged authorities to launch a safety-awareness initiative for families living in high-risk older buildings with no handrails or barriers.

“As well as the legislation there also needs to be a campaign to change the way people think about this issue.

“In the US, they introduced a campaign to install window locks on high-rise buildings and that has helped significantly to reduce the number of accidents to almost zero over the past 10 years.”

Dubai Municipality announced its new directive on Thursday, but inspectors from the building department have been conducting checks for more than a year.

In recent years there have been a spate of cases across the country in which adults and children have died after falling from balconies.

In January 2012, an Indonesian maid fell to her death from a ninth-floor apartment block in Sharjah.

In the same month, in Sharjah, a 28-year-old Russian woman died after falling from the sixth-floor of a building, and a seven-year-old Egyptian girl survived a fall from the third floor of her building.

And in November 2012, a five-year-old boy with special needs died after falling from the second floor of his building in Abu Dhabi.

The incidents prompted child-protection officials to call for increased safety standards on high-rise buildings.

nhanif@thenational.ae