Millboard’s top 3 tips for safety conscious decking design
Feeling safe and comfortable is a key component of compelling outdoor design. Integrating safety features into beautiful designs encourages people to spend more time in those spaces, to ‘live life outside’ as our motto goes!
If you are designing a public or communal space that includes decking, it’s important to be up to date with the relevant health and safety regulations. We’ve been through them all to pick out the top three most important points for you to consider:
- Get the basics of step design right
Decking steps that are too narrow, too steep, uneven or poorly marked are a recipe for disaster and won’t meet industry standards. Once you’ve designed and built your space, you’ll want to clearly mark where steps start and finish with lighting or other alternatives (see the next point).
You’ll also need to think about where protective barriers would be ideally placed to prevent falls, and where handrails could assist people to ascend and descend safely.
As a rule of thumb, remember that whenever floor levels change, your design will need to alert users to potential trip hazards.
- Ensure that edges and drops are visible and protected
Lighting illuminates trip hazards, reducing accidents. Understandably, many architects and designers don’t want to sabotage their carefully chosen mood schemes by flood-lighting an installation and sometimes it’s just not practical. So what to do? An alternative is to use strongly contrasting colours on key areas such as the edges of steps. The universally accepted way to determine contrast is by comparing the Light Reflective Values (LRVs) of two colours. LRVs range from 0 points (black) to 100 points (white) and the recommendation is to provide at least 30 points of distance between your chosen contrast colours.
The eye-catching results will ensure that visitors to the space will remain alert to edges and drops.
- Consider slip hazards
All outside spaces (in the UK at least) are at their most dangerous when wet or icy. Special attention needs to be given to walkway materials to ensure that surfaces remain safe throughout the seasons.
As a premium composite material, Millboard’s decking provides excellent grip all year round. As the boards have no wood content, unlike conventional composite decking, they don’t suffer from the slimy algae or fungal growth associated with traditional timber. In fact, there’s a dramatic difference. Millboard’s Weathered Oak for example, has a ‘Pendulum Test Rating’ of 81 when dry and 65 when wet. Normal timber decking goes from 65 when dry to a slip-inducing 22 when wet! For more information about how slip resistance is tested, please visit: the Health & Safety Executive website(http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/geis2.pdf).
Whatever materials you choose to integrate into your designs, think about performance in the most challenging of weathers. You can’t ever reduce risk to zero, but sensible choices will maximise the enjoyment and usage of the space.
Most legislation is common sense and therefore, accommodating the regulations will only ever impact positively on great design. Caring about your visitors’ welfare will be rewarded by the value they place in working and relaxing in the spaces you create.
We hope that you found Millboard’s tips useful and would love to see examples of the clever ways that you’ve integrated safety into your outdoor designs! Drop us a line on email@example.com.