Is Your Decking Safe?

Is Your Decking Safe?

Topic: Decking

In late February, 2013, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that 10 people were
lucky to escape serious injuries when a deck collapsed beneath them during a family dinner.

This is not a rare occurrence and sometimes the consequences are tragic.
In this instance, the deck was only 8 years old and to all appearances was safe and sound.

Is your decking safe?

Read on and find out what government building authorities have to say.

Deck, balcony and window safety, a PDF guide published by the Queensland
government,starts with a chilling story about a fatal deck collapse that occurred in 2008.
In that case, the deck had been constructed prior to the 1940s,
when building standards were not as stringent as they are today.

Nevertheless, as the SMH article cited above illustrates, age is not the only factor
that contributes to a deck collapse. For example, the coroner's report on the fatal
2008 deck collapse concluded that rusty nails were responsible for that deck's collapse,
but nails don't necessarily take half a century or more to rust or become loose.

The PDF goes on to recommend that all dwellers in residences that have decks
"have them inspected for structural integrity" and goes on to outline other major
areas of concern. These include: 

  • Balustrades: In Queensland and other states and territories,
  • it is required by law that if people can fall one metre or more from a floor or roof,
  • a balustrade or other protective barrier must be erected.
  • The barrier must also be of sound enough construction not to collapse under pressure. Balustrades on decks must not have any openings greater than 125mm,
  • to prevent small children from accidentally falling through. 
  • Stairs: Stairs leading to decks, too, must be fitted with railings that are strong
  • enough to resist the pressure of one or more people leaning or falling against them.

Child safety was a major issue in the deck, balcony and window safety guide.
According to their statistics, 181 children were hospitalised in Queensland between
1998 and 2002 after falling from unsafe balconies or decks.

That's a startling statistic, especially when you consider it includes accidents
in Queensland alone over just a 4 year period. 

Is Your Decking Safe?

The Queensland Government PDF recommended to "have [decks] inspected for
structural integrity" and not to inspect them yourself.

Nothing emphasises this important distinction better than the more recent deck
collapse reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Police Inspector Jeff Bell remarked, "It's an eight-year-old deck which had stood
the test of time, until now. What caused this will have to be investigated."

Perhaps if the deck had been inspected earlier by a professional building inspector,

the problem could have been fixed before the accident occurred.

Ensure that you use a licensed decking builder to build your deck if this is a requirement
where you live.

Visit our trade licensing page to find out more.

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