Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.1 Overall Requirements

5.1.5 Steps and Stairs Balusters

Protective handrails and guardrails should have balusters/spindles at intervals of less than three and a half inches or have sufficient protective material to prevent a three and a half inch sphere from passing through if caring for children two years and over. If caring for children under the age of two years, balusters/spindles should be spaced at intervals less than two and three-eighths inches or have sufficient protective material to prevent a sphere with a diameter of two and three-eighths inches from passing through.
A child’s head may be small enough to be entrapped in a space more than three and a half inches wide (1). Infants and young toddlers may crawl or play close to railings around stairs. Because they may have access to railings, it is recommended to follow the same recommendation for the spacing of balusters/spindles for stair railings as the slats on a crib.
Building codes vary from state to state and many regulations for balusters/spindles do not meet the recommendations for intervals less than three and a half inches. Some building codes are for intervals of four inches or greater. Because of this discrepancy and the expense of adding balusters/spindles, using a protective material may be the only option. Recommendations as stated above should be considered for remodeling or new construction.
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  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 2008. Public playground safety handbook. Bethesda, MD: CPSC.