Patent application title: Safety barrier for balconies and like structures
Matthew William Dodds (Utterson, CA)
IPC8 Class: AE04H1716FI
Class name: Fences panel
Publication date: 2012-05-24
Patent application number: 20120126192
A safety barrier assembly for a balcony has posts for mounting at spaced
positions on the balcony, each post having a foot member supported by the
balcony floor and a head member biased against the balcony ceiling. The
posts each have an adjustment mechanism enabling height adjustment, and a
series of formations along the length of the post at which to mount a
mesh screen so that the screen stretches from floor to ceiling and
stretches around the posts. The mesh screen thereby defines a confined
usable balcony space but presents a barrier to a balcony occupant other
than through an access door.
1. A kit of parts for assembly as a safety barrier, comprising a post and
a flexible mesh, an adjustment mechanism mounted to the post for
adjusting the length of the post, first mounting means on the post, and
second mounting means engageable with the first mounting means, the
engagement between the first and second mounting means for anchoring a
part of the mesh to the post along substantially the full length of the
2. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 1, the post configured as a plurality of post sections, the post sections adapted to be joined end to end to form the post.
3. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 2, the post being tubular.
4. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 3, the post sections adapted to be joined by having one end of one post section swaged to a dimension to fit into an unswaged end of an adjacent post section.
5. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a lock member engageable with one of the first and second mounting means to lock said one of the first and second mounting means to the other of the first and second mounting means to prevent withdrawal of the mesh from the engaged first and second mounting means.
6. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 1, the first mounting means comprising a hole in the post, the second mounting means comprising a clip inserted into the hole to fix a part of the mesh within the hole.
7. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 5, further comprising a locking element engageable with at least one of the clip and the hole to lock the clip into the hole.
8. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 5, the clip being spring snappable into the hole.
9. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 5, the hole being a recess in the outer surface of the post.
10. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 5, the post having a wall defining a hollow interior, the hole piercing the wall.
11. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 9, the hole being elongate and extending along the post parallel to a central axis thereof.
12. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 11 having a plurality of the elongate holes, the holes arrayed along substantially the full length of the post
13. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a foot member mounted at one end of the post and a head member mounted at the other end of the post.
14. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 13, the foot member and the head member each having two components linked by a ball joint permitting contact surfaces of the respective member to adapt to a ceiling or a floor surface of a building structure when the kit of parts is assembled as the safety barrier.
15. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 14, the contact surfaces being larger than the cross-section of the post.
16. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a plurality of cable ties for strapping the post to a member of a building structure at which the kit is assembled as the safety barrier.
17. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a strengthening wire for attachment to the mesh along at least one of an upper and lower edge thereof.
18. A kit of parts as claimed in claim 17, the strengthening wire having a tensioning device attached thereto to increase tension in the wire.
19. An assembly including a plurality of posts as claimed in claim 1, the posts mounted vertically, laterally spaced from one another, and extending between a ceiling and a floor of a building structure, the mesh suspended between spaced ones of the posts and fixed thereto at the first and second mounting means.
20. An assembly as claimed in claim 16, the posts strapped to anchor members forming a part of the building structure.
21. An assembly as claimed in claim 16, the building structure being a balcony, the assembly having plurality of posts for mounting at corners of the balcony with one post at each corner, the foot members bearing against a floor of the balcony, the head members bearing against a ceiling of the balcony.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 This invention relates to safety barriers for balconies and like structures.
DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART
 Apartment balconies are of great value for apartment dwellers in offering the opportunity to go outside for a breath of fresh air without having to make a time-consuming expedition to the ground floor and back again. Balconies also provide a better viewing experience than simply looking through a window. It is known, however, that balconies present a danger of falling. In particular, children are frequently curious and not able to foresee danger. A balcony wall offers the challenge of finding out what is on the other side. Pets, too, may, through curiosity or illness, venture onto a balcony wall without realizing the danger of falling. In such cases, any distraction or misstep can result in a fall and serious injury or death.
 Statistics related to falls in Canada show the following:  Deaths from falls from, out of or through building or structure in the years 2000 through 2005-373  Hospitalizations due to falls from, out of or through building or structure for 2007-1529  Hospitalizations due to falls from, out of or through building or structure for 2008-1475
 These numbers will, of course, have their counterparts around the world and they are worthy of any efforts that can be brought to reduce them. Clearly, it is desirable to limit the opportunity for accidents of this type. Of course, the easiest solution in the case of apartment balconies is to keep the balcony access door barred at all times but, while comparatively safe, such a solution does mean that many of the usual advantages of a balcony cannot be enjoyed.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,414,784 (Masters) discloses a relatively permanent structure for mounting at a balcony, the structure consisting of fixed panels and windows that can be opened in the panels. The installation of fixed panels detracts from the airiness generally afforded by a balcony setting. In addition, the openable windows present risk of an unattended child or pet falling.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,735,023 (Posner) discloses a relatively permanent structure intended to enclose the balcony but with adjustment provision to allow fitting to variously dimensioned balconies. Installation of the structure requires some structural intrusion into the pre-existing structure. In addition, the structures disclosed have operable windows which, again, present the risk of inadvertent falls.
 Japanese patent application 63014935 shows a structure for deploying snow barrier panels at a balcony, the panels being slidable within housings forming a semi-permanent installation. The barriers detract from the airiness and light of a balcony when they are slid into place.
 While safety aspects of the structures disclosed in the patent publications identified above may have merit, they are generally not deployable in many circumstances owing to landlord or condominium rules which bar the installation of any structure which may alter the structural integrity of the balcony floor or walls, such as the drilling of holes. Moreover, several either do not effectively present a safety barrier or, if they do improve safety, they detract markedly from the desirable airiness experience of balconies.
 A safety structure which is easily deployable, which does not alter the structural integrity of the floor or walls of the apartment building, and which offers benefits of an open balcony is desirable.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 According to one aspect of the invention, there is provided a kit of parts for assembly as a safety barrier, comprising a post and a flexible mesh, an adjustment mechanism mounted to the post for adjusting the length of the post, first mounting means on the post, and second mounting means engageable with the first mounting means, the engagement between the first and second mounting means for anchoring a part of the mesh to the post along substantially the full length of the post. Preferably, the post is configured as a plurality of post sections, adjacent post sections adapted, as by having one section swaged, to be joined end to end to form the post. The post can be tubular, of square, round or other convenient cross-section.
 The kit of parts can further comprise a lock member engageable with one of the first and second mounting means to lock the one of the first and second mounting means to the other of the first and second mounting means to prevent withdrawal of the mesh from the engaged first and second mounting means. The first mounting means can comprise a hole in the post, the second mounting means comprising a clip inserted into the hole to fix a part of the mesh within the hole. The clip can be spring snappable into the hole. The holed can be a recess in the outer surface of the post or is alternatively a hole that pierces the wall of a tubular post. The holes can be of elongate form, extending along the post parallel to a central axis thereof. The holes can be arrayed along substantially the full length of the post
 The kit of parts can further comprise a foot member mounted at one end of the post and a head member mounted at the other end of the post. The foot member and the head member can each have two components linked by a ball joint permitting contact surfaces of the respective member to adapt to a ceiling or a floor surface of a building structure when the kit of parts is assembled as the safety barrier. The kit of parts as can further comprise a plurality of cable ties for strapping the post to a member of a building structure at which the kit is assembled as the safety barrier. The kit may further comprise a strengthening wire for attachment to the mesh along at least one of an upper and lower edge thereof which strengthening wire can include a tensioning device attached thereto to increase tension in the wire.
 According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided an assembly including a plurality of posts as previously defined, the posts mounted vertically, laterally spaced from one another, and extending between a ceiling and a floor of a building structure, the mesh suspended between spaced ones of the posts and fixed thereto at the first and second mounting means. In such an assembly, the posts can be strapped to anchor members forming a part of a building structure such as a balcony, the assembly having plurality of posts for mounting at corners of the balcony with one post at each corner, the foot members bearing against a floor of the balcony, the head members bearing against a ceiling of the balcony.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 For simplicity and clarity of illustration, elements illustrated in the following figures are not drawn to common scale. For example, the dimensions of some of the elements are exaggerated relative to other elements for clarity. Advantages, features and characteristics of the present invention, as well as methods, operation and functions of related elements of structure, and the combinations of parts and economies of manufacture, will become apparent upon consideration of the following description and claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of the specification, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding parts in the various figures, and wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a safety barrier for a balcony according to an embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 2 is a plan view of the safety barrier of FIG. 1 in place at an apartment balcony;
 FIG. 3 is a side view of the safety barrier of FIG. 2;
 FIG. 4 is a plan view of an alternative configuration of safety barrier in place at an apartment corner balcony;
 FIG. 5 is a longitudinal sectional view of a post for us in the safety barrier of FIG. 1;
 FIG. 6 is a sectional view to a larger scale of a top portion of the post of FIG. 5;
 FIG. 7 is a sectional view to a larger scale of an intermediate portion of the post of FIG. 5;
 FIG. 8 is a sectional view to a larger scale of a bottom portion of the post of FIG. 5;
 FIG. 9 shows a manner of fixing a mesh screen to the post of FIG. 5; and
 FIG. 10 is a side view of a clip for clipping the mesh screen to the post of FIG. 5.
 FIG. 11 is a side view of a part of post and mesh screen according to another embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 12 is a cross sectional view of a clip arrangement for the embodiment for FIG. 11.
 FIG. 13 shows a vertical sectional view of an alternative form of post.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION INCLUDING THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 Referring in detail to FIG. 1, a mesh screen 10 is shown mounted on a rectangular array of posts 12. The posts each have a head member 14 and a foot member 16, with the mesh screen extending substantially from the level of the head member to the level of the foot member. The illustrated assembly is intended to be mounted at the corner bounds of a rectangular balcony of an apartment or like dwelling in such a way as to reduce the chance of injurious falls by occupants of the dwelling. Thus, as shown in the plan view of FIG. 2, a front span 18 of the mesh screen extends between front posts 20 and is hard up against a balcony front wall or railing 22. Similarly, a side span 24 of the mesh screen 10 extends between a respective front pole 20 and a back pole 26 and is hard up against a balcony side wall or railing. As shown in the side view of FIG. 3, each of the front and side spans extends between a balcony floor 30 and a balcony ceiling 32. A similar arrangement is shown in plan view in FIG. 4 for a square corner balcony. The assembly can be adapted to other regular or irregular balcony forms.
 Referring in detail to FIG. 5, one embodiment of post has a hollow upper section 34, a hollow intermediate section 36, and a hollow lower section 38. The upper section is attached to a head member 14 and the lower section is attached to a foot member 16. The intermediate section 36 has a reduced diameter upper end 40 to fit within the lower end of the upper section 34, and a reduced diameter lower end 42 to fit within an upper end of the lower section 38. As shown in greater detail in FIG. 7, the lower end 42 of the intermediate section is formed with a threaded bore 44 to receive an adjustment worm screw 46. The worm screw is turned by means of a crank 48 acting through a pair of bevel gears 50 mounted in the post 12 whereby the intermediate section 36 can be raised or lowered relative to the lower section 38 to alter the overall height of the post. The post sections are made of aluminum or of stiff plastics such as polyethylene.
 The head and foot members 14, 16 are generally trapezoidal section polyethylene blocks. The foot member is moulded around a threaded rod 52 which engages in a threaded aperture formed in the post lower section 38. The screw engagement permits the foot member 16 to be screwed into place and retained there during assembly of the balcony barrier. The head member is moulded around a rod 56 and on assembly, the rod has a sliding engagement in apertures through a block 58 mounted in the post upper section 34. The head member can be adjusted by axial movement of the rod 56 in the apertures against the bias of a compression spring 60 surrounding the rod 56.
 To assemble the post, the upper, intermediate, and lower sections 34, 36 and 38 respectively, are fitted together. The foot member 16 is screwed into the lower end of the post and the head member 14 is lodged into the upper end of the post. The worm gear 46 is at this time at a position where the overall length of the post 12 is less than the floor to ceiling height of the balcony for which the barrier is being assembled. The crank 48 is inserted into the lower one of the bevel gears 50 forming part of the worm gear mechanism and the crank is rotated to turn the worm gear to increase the overall length of the post to the floor to ceiling height and to compress the spring 60. The spring characteristics are selected to ensure a pressure at the foot and head of the post of the order of 40 pounds per square foot. The pressure per unit area is important as it should not be so low as to permit the post to be easily dislodged and should not be so high as to risk damage to the balcony structure itself. To ensure that a pressure within the desired range is reached, in one embodiment of the invention, a transducer is mounted in the post which is linked to the compression spring and which trips a visible indicator when full compression of the spring is attained.
 Whereas the crank and worm gear arrangement is preferred because the resulting product can be made inexpensively and is easy to carry and assemble, it will be realized that the principles of the invention can be realized with alternative arrangements. Thus, for example, a hydraulic or pneumatic arrangement can be used to achieve the desired pressure per unit area at the foot and head members. It will be realized also that that the compression spring can be at the foot member instead of or in addition to being at the head member. In fact, the compression spring can be dispensed with altogether if the head and/or foot member is made of a material with sufficient elasticity and resilience to produce and withstand the pressure required upon its deformation. The post of the preferred embodiment is of circular cross section but can alternatively be of a square or other suitable sectional shape. The post illustrated has several elements that are assembled together. In a modification of the illustrated embodiment, specific elements of the post assembly can be linked together in order to reduce the risk of individual elements being lost when the barrier is disassembled.
 As shown in FIG. 9, each post 12 has a series of formations extending over its length and clips are used to fasten strands of the mesh screen 10 at the formations. In the illustrated arrangement, the formations comprise a series of pairs of holes 63 into which clips, essentially of the well-known peg board configuration, are inserted. A typical peg board clip 64 is shown in FIG. 10. The clip has an upper straight section 66 integral with a rounded lower section 68. To install the clip, the upper section is first inserted into an upper one of a selected hole pair. The clip is then tilted to bring the inserted straight section against the back inside surface of the post wall and, in so doing, to insert the other end 70 of the clip into registration with the lower one of the selected hole pair. In the course of the installation, the rounded part 68 is made to embrace one or more strands 72 of the mesh screen 10.
 In assembling the balcony barrier, several of the posts 12 are readied and then the mesh screen 10 is attached to each of them in turn so as generally to wrap around the post array with the mesh screen extending from floor to ceiling. The clips are installed down the length of each post to attach the mesh screen to the post. An appropriate length of the screen to accommodate a particular span of the particular balcony is measured off and the mesh screen is attached to a second post to enable the desired span spacing between the two posts when the barrier assembly is complete and the barrier is deployed. The mesh screen is attached in turn to each of the posts 12 that will form the finished barrier. The posts are then positioned so as to stretch the mesh screen and to create the barrier. As previously mentioned, it is preferable for the posts 12 to be located against the walls or railings of the balcony. In positioning the posts, they are orientated to have the clips 64 located on the reverse side of the posts from the viewpoint of someone located on the balcony. This will decrease the chance of inadvertent or unauthorized tampering with the clips by balcony occupants. Whereas the preferred assembly sequence consists of suspending the mesh screen 10 before finally positioning the posts 12, it will be appreciated that the posts can be positioned first and then the mesh screen hung in place. However, this is a more difficult sequence, especially if it is desired to hide the clips 68 away from access by children.
 It will be appreciated that more complex clip arrangements can be used as an alternative to the arrangement illustrated. For example, a vertical array of eyes can be formed on the outer surface of the posts for use with small shackles, each of which has a part retained within a selected one of the eyes and a curved part thereof retaining a strand or strands of the mesh screen.
 It is important to reduce the chance of children or pets squeezing around the posts or mesh screen. As described previously, the posts 12 are preferably positioned close to a balcony wall or railing and then are subject to vertical compression to hold them in position, this reducing the chance of anyone squeezing by the screen 10 at a vertical edge of the screen. To reduce the chance of bypassing the screen along a horizontal edge, mesh apertures along the upper and lower edges of the mesh screen are threaded by aircraft or similar wire 74 or cable. The aircraft wire can be fastened to an eye fixed to the post at or adjacent the head member 14 or foot member 16, as applicable. The eye can be integral with the head or foot member or with the extreme end of the upper or lower post section, as applicable. In one embodiment, the aircraft wire or cable has a tensioning device such as a turnbuckle (not shown).
 An alternative clip arrangement is shown in FIGS. 11 and 12. Referring in detail to FIG. 11, a tubular post 12 has a series of rectangular slots 76 extending through the wall of the post. A mesh sheet 10 is fastened to the post 12 by fastening arrangements 78 at the slots 76 as shown in the lower part of the figure. The fastening arrangement includes plastic clips 80 and locking pins 82. As shown in the cross-sectional view of FIG. 12, each clip has a pair of legs 84 extending from a body part, the legs formed with lobes 86. The elongate locking pins 82 each have a head 88 and a body portion dimensioned to be a close friction fit within a slot 92 formed in the clip body. In use, the mesh 10 is positioned around the post 12 and the clips 80 are pressed against the mesh and into each of the slots 76 to drive the mesh into the interior of the tubular post. As each clip 80 is pressed into the post 12, the ends of legs 84 are driven towards one another as shown by the arrow A to allow clip entry, the legs then flexing back to the positions shown in the figure once the clip is fully inserted. Each of the pins 82 is then driven into its respective slot 92 and, in its inserted position, acts to prevent inadvertent withdrawal of its associated clip 80. When the safety screen is to be dismantled, the locking pin 82 is prised from the slot 92 to allow the clip to be pulled out. In operation, the mesh 10 is positioned so that it extends around the outside of the tubular posts 12 so that access to the locking pins and clips from the interior of the balcony is inhibited.
 As indicated previously, whereas the posts may be a single length, they are preferably made in multiple sections which can be sold together with a required area of mesh and the required number of clips for later assembly. An alternative arrangement of post sections is shown in FIG. 13 which illustrates both the manner in which the post sections are fixed together and an alternative form of adjustment mechanism to enable the post height to accurately fit the vertical spacing between balcony floor and ceiling. A lower post section 96 has a series of opposed holes 98 through the post wall the holes arrayed along the length of the post section. An upper post section 100 has a spring unit 102 lodged inside the tube with outer lobes 104 received in opposed holes 106. The upper tube section 100 includes a swaged region 108 to fit within the upper part of the lower post section. The extent of vertical overlap of the upper and lower sections can be selected by compressing the spring unit 102 by pressing on the lobes 104, relatively moving the upper and lower post section in telescopic fashion to the desired position, and allowing the spring unit 102 to release to seat the lobes 104 in the appropriate holes 98 in the upper section.
 An alternative height adjustment mechanism is shown at the lower part of FIG. 13. An adjustment screw 108 is received in a threaded sleeve 110 locked within a plastic plug member 112 which has a friction fit in the end of the tubular part of the post 12. The adjustment screw is integral with a nut 114 for enabling rotation of the adjustment screw to change the post height. The screw has a lower end formed as a ball 116 which is received in a socket member 118. A plastic foot 120 is moulded around the socket member. The engagement of the screw 108 and threaded sleeve 110 allows vertical adjustment of the post height when in position to provide a firm fit against a balcony ceiling and floor. The ball and socket arrangement allows the assembly to be mounted at locations where the balcony floor is not perfectly level. Although not shown in the figure, if desired a similar height adjustment and ball and socket arrangement can be configured at the upper end of the post 12.
 In this arrangement, the contact pressure against the balcony wall and floor may not be as high as in the previously described embodiments. This arrangement is particularly adapted for assembly and installation in situations where the posts can be tied off to convenient anchor members present in the original balcony structure. Suitable members are for example, the railing and posts often provided as part of a chest level safety barrier in balconies when first constructed. Suitable ties are heavy duty cable ties.
 Suitable materials for the mesh screen have a high Mullen bursting strength. One such material is Phifer Tuff Screen which is a heavy-duty screening material with small mesh aperture and that is tear and puncture-resistant. This flexible fabric is available as a black material which is preferred over other colours and transparent material as it permits better viewing of objects behind the mesh screen. However, mesh fabrics having other colours and transparencies may be used without departing from the principles of the invention.
 The mesh fabric is difficult to penetrate or disassemble without deliberate intent and absent appropriate tools. Mesh screens with higher mesh apertures can also be contemplated provided they conform to safety recommendations and requirements in terms of such increased mesh size. Such materials should have a mesh aperture size less than five inches across to avoid a child from inserting its head between adjacent mesh strands. The mesh screen can be a regular or irregular pattern of apertures and can be uniform or decorative.
 With appropriate choice of materials, the safety barrier assembly structure described can be made of relatively light materials including, for example, aluminum or carbon fibre for the post material. This enables easy erection and teardown suitable for temporary installation. On the other hand heavier materials can be used where the installation may be in place for a season or longer and where frequent erection and teardown are not contemplated.
 Other variations and modifications of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art. The embodiments of the invention described and illustrated are not intended to be limiting. The principles of the invention contemplate many alternatives having advantages and properties evident in the exemplary embodiments.
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