Fall risk areas


​​​​​Approved providers must take every reasonable precaution to protect children from harm and hazards likely to cause injury, and to ensure the premises, furniture, and equipment are safe, clean, and in good repair.

This includes minimising the risk of children falling from built areas above ground level and on natural, unimproved land where there is a sudden drop in height.

Fall risk areas may include:

  • decks, balconies and verandahs
  • mezzanine floors
  • openable windows without secure screens
  • stairways, ramps and access pathways to buildings including retaining walls
  • children's outdoor playground structures, such as forts.

Planning, design and construction

When planning, designing and constructing a service, approved providers should seek expert advice and guidance to ensure all applicable legislation, codes and standards are considered in conjunction with National Law requirements.

This may include consulting architects, developers, planners and building practitioners.

Note: The 'every reasonable precaution' requirement under the National Law may be in addition to Australian Building Code requirements and relevant Australian Standards for the design of early childhood centres.

Although the Building Code of Australia has balustrade and stair design requirements, under the National Law, approved providers must ensure balustrades and stairs at a building's entries and exits are safe and suitable for children.

This includes child-height handrails installed at any entry, exit and emergency evacuation stairs, and a balustrade of a design and height that children cannot climb or fall over.

The Regulatory Authority recommends in fall risk areas regularly used by children a minimum 1.8 metre balustrade height. Whereas in areas children use only in emergencies (e.g. fire evacuation stairs), a 1.5 metre balustrade may be sufficient.

When using an emergency exit with the lower balustrade, approved providers should follow evacuation procedures (e.g. additional staff supporting children to use the stairs).

It is the responsibility of the approved provider's building certifier to assess all building work against the Building Code of Australia, relevant Australian Standards and jurisdictional legislation or codes.

This includes considering the need for barriers in built areas above ground level and on natural, unbuilt land where there is a sudden drop in height.

Barrier options

Barriers including balustrades, handrails, guardrails, infills and window protection devices such as security screens may prevent children from falls and injuries.

When selecting a barrier, consider:

  • the height from decks (including those on outdoor play structures), balconies, verandahs, mezzanine floors and windows to ground level (e.g. whether a potential fall of 4 metres requires a different barrier compared with a 1 metre fall risk)
  • whether the design prevents climbing (e.g. whether it has non-climbable arcs outwards from the top of the balustrade and no footholds)
  • how to safely use furniture and play equipment on decks, balconies, verandahs and mezzanine floors (e.g. whether children can move play equipment and climb over the barrier)
  • ensuring adequate staff supervision of children, particularly in areas above ground level
  • installing a second, lower handrail for extra stability and support for children in stairways but one that does not create a ladder
  • installing protection devices such as security screens on openable windows in external walls where there is a significant drop to ground level and where the window opening is at a climbable height for children.

This is not an exhaustive list of barrier considerations, nor is it prescriptive.

Approved providers need to seek expert advice from their architect and building certifier to ensure all relevant building standards, codes and standards for barriers are met.

Related information

Learn more about an approved provider's responsibilities for protecting children from harm or injury including the risk of falling, and read the relevant legislation, codes and standards on barriers to prevent falls:

Help and support

For questions about meeting requirements please contact your regional office.

Last updated 28 September 2023