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Barriers and separating elements

Barriers and separating elements at sports grounds assist in safety of spectators.

A barrier or a separating element is any element of a sports ground, permanent or temporary, intended to prevent people from falling, and to retain, stop or guide people.

This is also referred to as a ‘guard’ or ‘guard rail’ in the Building Regulations.

Barriers and separating elements can refer to those used:

  • in areas of seated and standing accommodation, and on stairways and ramps
  • in areas of standing accommodation, known as crush barriers
  • in spectator galleries
  • to separate the viewing accommodation from the field of play or area of activity
  • as boundary walls, internal walls, fences or gates used to enclose the sports ground or individual sections of the ground, internally or externally

Whichever type of barrier, they should be designed to resist safely specified horizontal imposed loads. These are outlined in chapter 11 of the Green Guide.

A competent engineer should be used to ensure that the loading for each barrier is sufficient for its intended purpose.

Fixings and joints

The strength of all fixings and joints should be adequate for the loading to which the barrier will be subjected.

The design should avoid reliance wholly on the pull-out strength of a single fixing. It is also essential that fixing design takes account of the material into which the fixing is placed, the spacing between fixings, the edge distance and, where appropriate, the position of reinforcement in the concrete.

The fixings should not create a trip hazard for spectators.

Risk assessments and tests

All barriers, including crush barriers and support structures, should be subject to an annual visual inspection and risk assessment, to determine the schedule for testing.

Any barrier identified by the risk assessment as a potential risk should be tested immediately.

The risk assessment should be conducted and recorded by a Chartered Engineer, architect or surveyor of the appropriate skill and experience.

Responsibility for appointing a competent person to undertake and record the results of a risk assessment of barriers lies with the management of the sports ground.

The risk assessment should take into account all relevant recommendations in the Green Guide along with detailed appraisal of:

  • any available recorded information concerning the barrier’s design
  • the barrier’s construction and its fixings
  • the age of the barrier
  • any visual evidence of weakening or general deterioration of the barrier, including signs of corrosion, cracks, holes, misalignment, undue distortion, missing bolts or fittings
  • the barrier’s exposure to moisture
  • the barrier’s location within the sports ground.

Detailed written records should be made and kept of all observations, loadings and deflection/recovery readings in respect of each barrier tested. This should include a standard record sheet setting out the following information:

  • the identity of each barrier tested
  • its location, including a cross-reference to the ground plan
  • the date of inspection
  • all relevant results and comments arising from the test
  • a clear statement as to whether the barrier has passed or failed.

Chapter 11 of the Green Guide provides full information on seating requirements.

This includes details of:

  • the loading requirements for barriers
  • the height requirements for barriers in different areas of a ground
  • risk assessments and testing requirements.

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