The Building Code of Australia (BCA) allows a maximum opening of less than 12.5cm (representing the size of a young child’s head) for windows and balustrades, but the code is not generally applied retrospectively to existing buildings.
The NSW Government requires strata schemes with residential lots to install safety devices on all bedroom windows that present a risk to young children. By 2018 all state managed sites will be required to have made these modifications to adhere to the strata act and meet BCA requirements.
An openable window needs a safety device if the lowest part of the window is less than 1.7m above the floor and the external floor under the window is 2m or more above the outside surface. These safety devices must be able to limit the maximum window opening to less than 12.5cm against 250 newtons of force (approx. 25kg). They also must be robust and childproof. Suitable window safety devices would include window locks or safety screens, but not ordinary insect screens.
The NSW Government allows individual strata owners to install window safety devices regardless of their scheme’s by-laws and made changes to the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010 to include window safety devices in the prescribed condition report for rental premises.
The child window safety requirements for owners’ corporations have applied since 11 December 2013, but if the requirements have not been met by 13 March 2018, owners corporations will risk being fined.
While there are no laws that require window and balustrade openings in older buildings to meet current building standards, there are ways to improve safety.