Y2016-02 A woman’s fall through a balcony railing board in Lahti on 15 June 2016
In the early hours of 15 June 2016, an accident occurred in the city of Lahti in which a women who had been smoking on the balcony overbalanced or fell against the balcony railing. The cement fibreboard that formed part of the balcony railing broke into pieces, causing the woman to fall down from the fifth floor, leading to her immediate death.
The breakage of the balcony railing board caused a hole which was 88 cm wide and 77 cm high. The hole was so large that an adult could go through it.
The balconies of the block of flats had been renovated 13 years earlier, in 2003. Based on the investigation, part of the balcony railing boards had already suffered from weather-related strains, causing a considerable weakening in the lower edges of some of the boards. Another problem was that the building regulations contain no requirements on the toughness of such boards. The board had become brittle and scattered into pieces as a result of a single impact. The requirements on transparent structures, i.e. glasses, are better, and there are standardised tests for verifying, for example, that a glass is shock-proof.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that
• The Ministry of the Environment draws up regulations and instructions according to which non-transparent balcony railing structures have similar strength and shock-proof requirements as glass structures. A balcony railing must withstand a person falling against it.
• The Ministry of the Environment will ensure that the plans for any safety-critical structures include information on their planned useful life and the need for inspection and service. This information must be also be included in the building’s use and service manual.
Furthermore, the Safety Investigation Authority repeats its recommendation issued in connection with the investigation of the structural failures in a sports hall in Järvenpää in 2010:
• In cooperation with the construction industry, the Ministry of the Environment should develop a procedure which facilitates the comprehensive dissemination of information on potential safety anomalies, while allowing the compilation of information on the measures implemented.