Title:
CHILD SAFETY DEVICE FOR BALUSTRADES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A child safety device for balustrades designed to minimize or restrict child access to the open space between balusters, while preserving the spatial configuration and aesthetic appeal of the balustrade. The device comprises of an obstructing member secured by means of connection to one or more adjacent balusters, thereby blocking a portion of the gap substantially enough to minimize child access. The device leaves substantial space between the balusters open in order to not alter the visual perception of the balustrade and its surroundings. The obstructing members are preferably composed of the same material as the adjacent balusters and designed aesthetically so as to appear as part of the balustrade.



Inventors:
Langan, Tim (Laguna Hills, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/134133
Publication Date:
12/10/2009
Filing Date:
06/05/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D13/06
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20060175589Security mesh standard improvement, modification and designAugust, 2006Cooksley
20040164285Inflatable barricade and snow collection methodAugust, 2004Bernasconi
20060284154Component railing system and method of installationDecember, 2006Sprague
20050242335Fencing constructionNovember, 2005Bunn et al.
20050167643Fencing panelsAugust, 2005Butcher
20060097237Panel barriersMay, 2006Mcgregor
20080042030Roofer's lifesaverFebruary, 2008Holling et al.
20060145131Guardrail system and associated methodsJuly, 2006Purvis



Primary Examiner:
KENNEDY, JOSHUA T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FISH IP LAW, LLP (Irvine, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A child safety device for balustrades having laterally spaced balusters, comprising: a plurality of elongated obstructive members for substantially obstructing access to every openings between one or more balusters in a balustrade; and a coupling device for securing said elongated obstructive members to one or more balusters, wherein the coupling device comprises a connector adapted to securely wrap around each baluster.

2. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein each elongated obstructing member is configured to have an exterior design similar to the exterior design of said balustrade.

3. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein the width of each elongated obstructing member is substantially the same as a width of each baluster.

4. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein the width of each elongated obstructing member is substantially small compared to the distance between adjacent balusters.

5. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein each elongated obstructing member is independently securely coupled to adjacent balusters.

6. The child safety device of claim 5, wherein each elongated obstructing member is securely coupled to adjacent balusters by one or more coupling devices.

7. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein a height of each elongated obstructing member is 20% to 40% of the height of each baluster.

8. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein each elongated obstructing member blocks 20% to 40% of the space between adjacent balusters.

9. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein each elongated obstructing member includes one or more connector ports to securely couple said elongated obstructing member to the coupling device.

10. A child safety device for balustrades having laterally spaced balusters, comprising: a plurality of elongated obstructive members for substantially obstructing access to every openings between one or more balusters in a balustrade, wherein each of said elongated obstructing members is: configured to block 20% to 40% of the space between adjacent balusters; and a coupling device for securely coupling said elongated obstructive members to adjacent balusters, wherein the coupling device comprises a connector adapted to securely wrap around each baluster.

11. A child safe balustrade, comprising: a handrail; a plurality of balusters for supporting said handrail, wherein each of said balusters extend substantially vertical from a lower surface to said handrail; a plurality of elongated obstructing members, wherein each elongated obstructing member extends substantially vertical between every adjacent baluster; and a coupling device for securing each of said elongated obstructive members to one or more balusters, wherein the coupling device comprises a connector adapted to securely wrap around each baluster.

12. The child safe balustrade of claim 11, wherein each elongated obstructing member is configured to have an exterior design similar to the exterior design of said balustrade

13. The child safe balustrade of claim 11, wherein the width of each elongated obstructing member is substantially the same as a width of each baluster.

14. The child safety device of claim 11, wherein the width of each elongated obstructing member is substantially small compared to the distance between adjacent balusters.

15. The child safe balustrade of claim 11, wherein each elongated obstructing member is securely coupled to adjacent balusters.

16. The child safe balustrade of claim 15, wherein each elongated obstructing member is securely coupled to adjacent balusters by one or more coupling devices.

17. The child safe balustrade of claim 11, wherein a height of each elongated obstructing member is 20% to 40% compared to a height of each baluster.

18. The child safe balustrade of claim 11, wherein each elongated obstructing member blocks 20% to 40% of the space between adjacent balusters.

19. The child safe balustrade of claim 11, wherein each elongated obstructing member includes one or more connector ports to securely couple said elongated obstructing member to the coupling device to a portion of the connector.

20. A child safety device for balustrades having laterally spaced balusters, and a horizontal rail extending substantially a space between said balusters, comprising: a plurality of elongated obstructive members for substantially obstructing access to every openings between said horizontal rail and a handrail of said balustrade or openings between said horizontal rail and a lower surface, wherein each of said elongated obstructing members is: configured to block 20% to 40% of the space remaining in balustrade; and a coupling device for securely coupling said elongated obstructive members to adjacent balusters, wherein the coupling device comprises a connector adapted to securely wrap around each baluster.

21. The child safety device of claim 1, wherein a connector may comprise a flexible strap.

22. The connector of claim 21, wherein the flexible strap includes a plurality of locking members configured to couple with a receiving member at an end of the flexible strap.

23. The connector of claim 21, wherein the flexible strap is adapted to thread through an opening in the elongated obstructing member, wherein said elongated obstructive member comprises a pair of connector ports.

24. The child safety device of claim 23, wherein the coupling device comprises of a pair of connectors, wherein said connectors are rigid yet flexible plastic material bands with locking members that have a receiving end and locking end adapted to securely couple said obstructing member to the baluster by threading said bands through said pair of connector ports.

25. A child-safe stairway, comprising: a plurality of laterally-spaced vertical balusters, each including an upper end coupled to a handrail and a lower end coupled to respective stairs; a plurality of elongated obstructive members respectively situated between and securely coupled to every adjacent baluster, wherein distance between the handrail and an upper end of each elongated member is different than the distance between the handrail and the upper end of an adjacent elongated member.

26. A child-safe stairway of claim 25, wherein the distance between the handrail and each elongated member is substantially the same as the distance between the handrail and the upper end of every other elongated member.

27. A child-safe stairway of claim 26, wherein every elongated member have substantially the same size and shape.

28. The child-safe stairway of claim 25, wherein a distance between the handrail and a region of coupling of each elongated member to one or more adjacent balusters does not substantially change from elongated member to adjacent elongated member.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates in general to a child safety device for balustrades, and more specifically to a child safety device that reduces the danger to children, posed by the open spaces formed between the vertical posts or balusters of a handrail, by preventing or restricting access to said open spaces between each laterally spaced vertical baluster supporting the handrail in a manner so that the desired spatial configuration and aesthetic properties of the balustrade are preserved.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Handrails are a critical component in multi-level building design. Balustrades, handrails supported by laterally spaced vertical posts, termed balusters, can serve the function of either providing hand support to a user, such as in walkway or on stairs, or can provide a physical barrier, preventing the user's movement beyond it. Frequently, however, balustrades are utilized for both their functionality and their aesthetic appeal. Balustrades, and the balusters and handrail incorporated within, can be molded and designed so as to possess aesthetic architectural qualities such that they provide visual appeal and are incorporated into their surroundings.

The lateral openings between balusters in balustrades present a special danger to children. While the lateral spacing in balustrades may be regulated by local building code, it is possible for a child to pass through or get stuck between the balusters. Because balustrades are frequently employed in elevated areas or in stair ways, should a child pass through gaps between balusters they could fall large heights, potentially causing serious injury. As such, the unpredictable nature of children often necessitates parents to utilize child safety devices to combat these special dangers.

Many child safety devices for balustrades are designed as large barriers shaped to entirely close up the open space between balusters. These barrier-type safety devices typically are obtrusive and spoil the spatial configuration of a balustrade. Many balustrades are designed with aesthetics in mind; barriers destroy these aesthetics by covering up open space. By blocking the open space between balusters, visual perception of the balustrade and the surrounding area is fundamentally altered, appealing smaller and less aesthetically pleasing. While these devices may keep children safe from the danger of the gaps between balusters, they detract from the aesthetic beauty of the balustrade and its surroundings.

Frequently, horizontal and rectangular shaped barriers differ in methods of attachment to the handrail or balusters. Such barriers contain holes designed for attachment to the adjacent balusters or handrail by external linkage with fabric or fastenings. These methods of attachment, however, must necessarily be stable and secure. Because of the child's active nature, if there is a barrier set in place, the child will certainly push it, pull it, lean on it or throw items at it. Furthermore, frequent set up and take down of the child-proof barriers by the parent can decrease the lifespan of the barrier and its means of attachment, while damaging the existing balustrade. Thus, it is desirable for a child safety device to be sturdy and able to withstand consistent wear and tear while providing a simple, unimposing means of implementation with the existing balustrade design, whereby constant set-up, use, and disassembly of the child safety device, does not unnecessarily damage the balustrade nor wear out the safety properties of the device itself.

For example, some methods of attachment for child safety devices can cause permanent damage to the balustrade. Nails, staples, adhesives, and abrasion can all cause noticeable marks and defects to the balustrade, lowering its monetary and aesthetic value. Repeated implementation of such methods, inherently often causes the device's safety properties to diminish.

Some barrier-type safety devices lack proper fittings with the balustrade, leading a child to nick or cut themselves on the exposed edges of improperly fit structures. Other child-safe barriers, typically designed with nylon or other fencing materials, contain a plurality of openings along the design of the barrier; which often create other dangers. For example, when a child is inattentive or careless, they may lock their fingers in these openings, causing injury. As children frequently stick their hands and bodies where it is improper, small openings in a barrier-type design are undesirable, particularly because these small holes or openings allow the child's hand to go through and often become stuck. As such, child safety devices for balustrades should not contain improper fittings, sharp edges, or small openings, as they are dangerous to a child.

Other child safety devices comprise of barriers that block access to an entire corridor or stairwell. These devices are undesirable because adults or individuals that must pass through such barriers must constantly do and undue the barrier device to pass through a given space protected by such barrier devices.

Yet another problem with typical barrier-type safety devices is that they are often difficult to clean and set up. Large barriers, due to their size and sometimes awkward shape, can be difficult to properly set-up and fit securely within the balustrade. If a barrier is improperly set up in a balustrade, then it may fail to fulfill its necessary purpose, thereby allowing a potentially tragic accident to occur, such as a child falling through the rails from an elevated area. Thus, it is desirable for child safety devices for balustrades to be simple in design and provide easy, yet effective assembly.

Therefore, there is a need for a child-barrier device that may be integrated within the structural design of a balustrade. Particularly, there is a need in the art for a barrier structure that preserves the spatial configuration and open space of the balustrade design, yet obstructs a child's access through the gaps between balusters without altering or hindering the aesthetics of the balustrade and its surroundings. The present invention overcomes the above described disadvantages of current child safety devices for balustrades. It is to these ends that the present invention has been developed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

To minimize the limitations found in the prior art, and to minimize other limitations that will be apparent upon the reading of the specification, the present invention provides a novel child safety device aimed at reducing dangers posed by balustrades to children. The device blocks children from passing through or getting stuck in the gaps in a balustrade. The device is secured between balusters by coupling the device to one or more adjacent balusters using at least one connector. Thus, when a child attempts to access the space between balusters, the child is blocked by the child safety device and potential harm is prevented.

Further, the novel device aims to preserve the spatial configuration of the balustrade and not detract from the aesthetic quality of the balustrade and its surroundings. Because the device may be designed to match the shape, material, color and texture of the balustrade in a manner so that the aesthetic appearance of the balustrade is preserved. Additionally, because the design may conserve a considerable percentage of the space between balusters, it is configured to provide an adequate means of restricting children access to said dangerous spaces and preserve the open space and spatial configuration of the balustrade design.

A child safety device for balustrades having laterally spaced balusters, in accordance with the present invention, comprises of a plurality of obstructive members for substantially obstructing access to openings between one or more balusters in a balustrade, and a coupling device for securing said obstructive members to one or more balusters in a manner so as to preserve a space configuration and an aesthetic appearance of said balustrade.

A child safe stairway, in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, comprises of a plurality of steps, a handrail, a plurality of balusters for supporting said handrail, wherein each of said balusters extend substantially vertical from each step to said handrail, and a plurality of elongated obstructing members, wherein each elongated obstructing member extends substantially vertical between adjacent balusters.

A child safety device for balustrades having laterally spaced balusters, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, comprises a plurality of elongated obstructive members for substantially obstructing access to openings between one or more balusters in a balustrade, wherein each of said elongated obstructing members is: securely coupled to adjacent balusters by one or more connectors; configured to have an exterior design similar to the exterior design of said balustrade; configured to block 20-40% of the space between adjacent balusters; and a coupling device for securing said elongated obstructive members so as to preserve a space configuration and an aesthetic appearance of said balustrade.

A child safe balustrade, in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention, comprises a handrail; a plurality of balusters for supporting said handrail, wherein each of said balusters extend substantially vertical from a lower surface to said handrail; a plurality of elongated obstructing members, wherein each elongated obstructing member extends substantially vertical between adjacent balusters; and a coupling device for securing each of said elongated obstructive members to one or more balusters in a manner so as to preserve a space configuration and an aesthetic appearance of said balustrade.

It is one objective of the present invention to provide an effective safety barrier to prevent children from serious injury or entrapment around a balustrade.

It is another objective of the invention to preserve the open space and spatial configuration of a balustrade, thereby not changing the visual perception of the size of the balustrade and the aesthetic beauty of the balustrade and its surroundings.

It is still another objective of the invention to provide a guard for children that will not detract from the aesthetic appearance of the balustrade and its surroundings.

Finally, it is yet another objective of the present invention to provide a guard for children adaptable to a variety of balustrade designs, including implementation with multiple architectural configurations for staircases, hallways, or other open spaces, that comprise sloped and/or horizontally oriented balustrades.

These and other advantages and features of the present invention are described herein with specificity so as to make the present invention understandable to one of ordinary skill in the art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Elements in the figures have not necessarily been drawn to scale in order to enhance their clarity and improve understanding of these various elements and embodiments of the invention. Furthermore, elements that are known to be common and well understood to those in the industry are not depicted in order to provide a clear view of the various embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 1 illustrates a typical balustrade implemented on both an elevated flat surface and a sloped plane (i.e. of stairs), particularly depicting the open spaces formed between each laterally spaced vertical baluster supporting the handrail of the balustrade.

FIG. 2 illustrates a plurality of child safety devices encompassed in a balustrade designed to include a sloped section, in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, wherein each child safety device is coupled to adjacent balusters in a manner so as to preserve a spatial and design configuration of the balustrade.

FIG. 3(a) illustrates a leveled balustrade, shown here by way of example as a railing for securely surrounding the perimeter of an elevated deck, said railing retrofitted with a plurality of child safety devices in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, wherein each device comprises a single connector to couple each device to adjacent balusters.

FIG. 3(b) illustrates a close-up view of the railing or balustrade system surrounding the deck shown in FIG. 3(a), here depicting an alternative embodiment of the plurality of child safety devices coupled to adjacent balusters of the deck's railing system.

FIG. 4(a) illustrates an exemplary embodiment of a child safety device in accordance with the present invention, comprising specialized openings adapted to receive connectors, for example by threading said connectors through said openings, to couple the device to one or more balusters of a balustrade.

FIG. 4(b) illustrates a close-up view of the exemplary embodiment of a child safety device in accordance with the present invention shown in FIG. 4(a), wherein each connector 403 comprises a locking end 405 and a receiving end 406 to securely hold child safety device 400 in between adjacent balusters of a balustrade.

FIG. 4(c) illustrates another exemplary embodiment of a child safety device in accordance with the present invention, comprising a single opening adapted to receive one connector to couple the device to one or more balusters of a balustrade.

FIG. 4(d) illustrates an exemplary method of coupling another embodiment of child safety device 400, similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 4(a) and FIG. 4(b), wherein two connectors are used by threading each connector through connector ports in said child safety device.

FIG. 5(a)-(f) illustrate multiple embodiments of a plurality of child safety devices in accordance with the present invention, showing different coupling configurations and designs suitable for a variety of utility and aesthetic preferences.

FIG. 6(a)-(b) illustrate multiple embodiments of a plurality of child safety devices in accordance with the present invention, incorporated horizontally so as to match a decorative horizontal railing often implemented in balustrades.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the following discussion that addresses a number of embodiments and applications of the present invention, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

In the present disclosure, a railway or balustrade is the complete system of railings and posts or balusters that prevents people from falling over an edge, or provides a means to hold on while traversing through a walkway such as a hallway, a staircase, a stairway, or any other space with a balustrade, without deviating from the scope of the present invention.

Furthermore, in the present disclosure, a banister, railing or handrail, is the member for handholding, which may be parallel to a surface, angled, spiraled, or in any other configuration without deviating from the scope of the present invention. For example, and without limiting the scope of the present invention, vertical balusters may hold up perpendicular or angled banisters or handrails for stairs to provide support and aesthetic appeal.

It is understood that in the present disclosure balustrades may be used on stairways or railways that are open on one side, open on both sides, or may be used in a variety of configurations without deviating from the scope of the present invention. In some designs balustrades may comprise railing on both sides, on one side, or in the middle of a stairway, hallway, corridor or the like. Furthermore, in alternative designs of hallways, staircases, or stairways, multiple balustrades may be used with one or more balustrades in a middle portion of the structure.

Naturally, the present invention is geared more towards obstructing those spaces formed within a balustrade system that lead to elevation changes or danger zones from which individuals, particularly children, should be kept away from; however, use of a child safety device in any of the above mentioned designs does not deviate from the scope of the present invention.

Although it is understood, and the present disclosure will make such obvious, numerous embodiments of the present invention may be implemented in a variety of forms and in a multitude of applications. At a minimum, however, the present invention comprises obstructing members that resemble a balustrade's baluster and prevent or restrict access to the spaces found between said balusters by minimizing such spaces without fully covering the openings formed therein to both preserve the aesthetic appeal of the balustrade and to preserve the spatial configuration of an architectural design for an interior or exterior space.

The obstructing members are coupled with coupling devices, or connectors, which may comprise (without limitation), either a single or multiple cables, strings, ropes, elastics, rubbers, plastics, rigid materials, resilient materials, or any other type of material that may be coupled to each individual obstructing member and their adjacent balusters in order to prevent or restrict access to the spaces in-between said balusters of said balustrade.

These connectors may be used in pairs, in multiples of more than two, or as single units that secure each obstructing member between adjacent balusters. For example, and without deviating from the scope of the present invention, two connectors may couple obstructing members to adjacent balusters by suspending the obstructing members in the space sought to be restricted; a single rigid connector such as a rod or rigid member may affix each obstructing member securely by connecting each obstructing member to two or more adjacent balusters; or multiple resilient connectors may be configured in a crisscross configuration to stabilize each support member in the space sought to be restricted. Thus, there are a variety of embodiments and configurations of implementing and using a child safety device in accordance with present invention, such embodiments and configurations thereof discussed in turn.

Now referring to the drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates a typical balustrade implemented on both an elevated flat surface and a sloped plane (i.e. of stairs), particularly depicting the open spaces formed between each laterally spaced vertical baluster supporting the handrail of the balustrade.

FIG. 1 depicts a typical balustrade 100, comprising handrails 103 supported by evenly spaced balusters 104. Between balusters 104, are wide gaps 105, or open spaces, which may present danger to children should they have access to said gaps 105. For example, a child small enough to fit through one of said wide gaps 105 may fall from the top of steps 101 or through one of said gaps 105 situated at a high enough elevation to cause risk of bodily injury in the event of a fall. In order to prevent the risk of injury, balustrade 100 has been retrofitted with obstructing members, or child safety devices 110, between adjacent balusters 104 to restrict access to gaps 105.

Again, each obstructing member or child safety device 110, may be coupled with coupling devices, or connectors 102, which may comprise (without limitation) of single or multiple cables, strings, ropes, elastics, rubbers, plastics, rigid materials, resilient materials, or any other type of material that may be coupled to each individual obstructing member, or child safety device 110, and adjacent balusters of a balustrade such as balusters 104 of balustrade 100, in order to prevent or restrict access to the spaces in-between said balustrade(s).

Because child safety device 110 is designed to obstruct only a portion of the open space between balusters 104, child safety device 110 does not disrupt the spatial configuration of the balustrade design. By preserving open space, the child safety device does not affect the visual perception of balustrade 100 and its surroundings.

Additionally, each child safety device 110 may be designed so as to blend into and visually match each balustrade 104 and any surrounding designs weather aesthetically implemented or otherwise. Embodiments for child safety device 110 may be created to match the material of balustrade 100, such as wood, iron, stone, polyurethane, polystyrene or any other material without deviating from the scope of the present invention.

Further, each child safety device 110 may be shaped, colored and decorated to match each of adjacent balusters 104. Thus, by constructing the child safety device so as to match the balusters, child safety device 110 will not stand out or detract from the aesthetic beauty of the balustrade and its surroundings.

A desirable benefit of child safety device 110's unobtrusive design is that it will be simple to clean. Because the device may only obstruct a percentage of gaps 105 between balusters 104, ample open space will be remain available for the cleaner to reach through the balusters in order to clean all sides of the device.

FIG. 2 illustrates a plurality of child safety devices encompassed in a balustrade designed to include a sloped section, in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, wherein each child safety device is coupled to adjacent balusters in a manner so as to preserve a spatial and design configuration of the balustrade.

Specifically, FIG. 2 depicts balustrade 200 with handrail 201, evenly spaced balusters 202 and a plurality of child safety devices 205. Child safety devices 205 are designed so as to obstruct or restrict child access through openings 204 between any of adjacent balusters 202 of balustrade 200. Child safety devices 205 may be secured evenly between balusters 202 to reduce the remaining area of openings 204 in balustrade 200 so as to reduce risk of injury to a small child.

By obstructing opening 204 between balusters 202, access is minimized such that a child is restricted from accessing any of the dangerous spaces formed throughout balustrade 200; child safety device 205 therefore minimizes child access to the open space between balusters, leaving a space that is too small for a child to pass through, but large enough such that the child cannot get stuck and a desired spatial configuration of an architectural design for the baluster is preserved.

Child safety devices 205, in the present embodiment are secured to adjacent balusters 202 by an upper connector 207 and a lower connector 208. However, the method of connection and support for each child safety device 205 may vary depending on the desired embodiment without deviating from the scope of the present invention.

For example, and without limiting the scope of the present invention, connectors 207 and 208 may be threaded, inserted, attached, or coupled to connector ports (not shown here, but described in reference to FIG. 4(a) and FIG. 4(b)), and then threaded, inserted, attached, or coupled with one or more adjacent baluster depending on the application of the present invention and/or baluster design.

Furthermore, depending on other user preferences (i.e. how permanent the installer may desire to keep the child safety device attached to their balustrade), the method of connecting each child safety device 205 to balustrade 200 may vary. For example, upper connector 207 and lower connector 208 may be tied, glued, or fastened among other methods to secure child safety devices 205 to adjacent balusters 202. Furthermore, both the type and design of the connectors 207 and or 208 may be variable, as shown in particular embodiments in FIG. 5(a)-(f) and FIG. 6(a)-(b).

As referenced above, connectors 207 and 208 need not be the only means for coupling child safety devices 205 to balustrade 200. For example, and without limiting the scope of the present invention, a connector in accordance with the present invention may be used in pairs, in multiples of more than two, or as single units that secure each obstructing member (e.g. child safety device 205) between adjacent balusters such as balusters 202.

For example, and without deviating from the scope of the present invention, several configurations may be implemented for coupling one or more connectors to a balustrade: two connectors may couple obstructing members to adjacent balusters by suspending the obstructing members in the space sought to be restricted; a single rigid connector such as a rod or rigid member may affix each obstructing member securely by connecting each obstructing member to two or more adjacent balusters; alternatively, multiple rigid or resilient connectors may be configured in a crisscross configuration to stabilize each obstructing member in the space sought to be restricted. Thus, there are a variety of embodiments and configurations of implementing and using a child safety device in accordance with present invention; further exemplary embodiments and configurations of the present invention are discussed in turn with reference to the remaining figures.

Therefore, the type of balustrade, the spacing between balusters, the material, and the shape of the child safety device may all factor in the method of connection and type of connector(s) used, without limiting the scope of the present invention.

As shown by the upper section of balustrade 200 (i.e. to of stairs or steps 203), child safety device 205 may also be utilized so as to restrict child access through openings in balustrades containing a horizontal handrail, such as openings 204 at the upper level of balustrade 200. This is particularly advantageous, and may be desirable for use in other balustrade designs wherein the entire balustrade is adapted to a completely flat plane or surface. Such embodiment is discussed in turn with reference to FIG. 3(a)-(b).

FIG. 3(a) illustrates a leveled balustrade, shown here by way of example as a railing for securely surrounding the perimeter of an elevated deck, said railing retrofitted with a plurality of child safety devices in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, wherein each device comprises a single connector to couple each device to adjacent balusters.

Specifically, FIG. 3(a) shows elevated deck 300 overseeing a backyard area of, for example, a residence. Deck 300 comprises a horizontal balustrade 301, which extends throughout a perimeter of said deck 300. Balustrade 301 further includes child safety devices 305 all around balustrade 301's perimeter less opening 307. Naturally, while leaving opening 307 “unprotected” may not be desirable, FIG. 3(a) shows opening 307 as way of example of the spaces formed or openings created between adjacent balusters that may pose danger, particularly to small children.

Such balustrades in general are obviously desirable to keep individuals from accidentally falling, particularly from elevated areas, and to provide a support for a perimeter of deck 300, however, such balustrades often have openings such as opening 307, and child safety devices 305 may thus be applied to such horizontal balustrades as balustrade 301 so as to child proof deck 300.

FIG. 3(b) illustrates a close-up view of the railing or balustrade system surrounding the deck shown in FIG. 3(a); here depicting an alternative embodiment of the plurality of child safety devices 305 coupled to adjacent balusters of deck 300's railing system or balustrade 301.

Specifically, balustrade 301 comprises handrail 302 and a support surface 303, which may be a separate support member or simply a surface for deck 300. Handrail 302 is supported by balusters 304 which form openings 307 also discussed and referenced above. In this embodiment however, child safety devices 305 are coupled to each adjacent baluster 304 utilizing a plurality of pairs of connectors 306. This may be desirable for added security, particularly by adding stability to each child safety device 305.

FIG. 4(a) through (c) illustrate an exemplary embodiment of a child safety device in accordance with the present invention, comprising specialized openings adapted to receive connectors, for example by threading said connectors through said openings, to couple the device to one or more balusters of a balustrade.

Specifically, FIGS. 4(a) and (c) show two alternative embodiments of child safety device 400, wherein in one embodiment two flexible connectors 403 are threaded through two connector ports 401, and wherein the other embodiment of child safety device 400 is shown with a single connector port 401 adapted to receive a single rigid connector 407.

FIG. 4(d) illustrates an exemplary method of coupling another embodiment of child safety device 400, similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 4(a) and FIG. 4(b), with the aesthetic design configured to match balustrade 410. In this embodiment, connectors 403 are used to couple child safety device 400 to balustrade 410 by threading each connector 403 through connector ports 415 and securely wrapping said connectors 403 around each baluster 412 to child-proof the open spaces created between adjacent balusters 412, steps 413, and handrail 411 of balustrade 410.

The dimensions of child safety device 400 may be tailored to the specific dimensions of any balustrade. In an exemplary embodiment, child safety device 400 may be constructed with height dimensions substantially ranging between 20% and 40% of the height of each baluster, and with a width dimension such that said device 400 may substantially block a range between 20% and 40% of the space or openings formed between said adjacent balusters. However, it is understood that other designs and constructions comprising different dimensions for child safety device 400 would not deviate from the scope of the present invention.

Furthermore, a height placement of child safety device 400 between adjacent balusters is up to the installer. Depending upon the application or embodiment used in accordance with the present invention, and other factors such as the particular space between balusters of a particular balustrade, the height placement of child safety device 400 may be varied, as shown in FIGS. 5(b) and (e). An installer may secure the child safety device at a height they deem aesthetically pleasing, while still minimizing access to the space between balusters so as to prevent a child from the harms described herein.

When child safety device 400 is secured between one or more adjacent balusters, the amount of open space in a balustrade is reduced; child safety device 400 thus divides up the remaining space into open sections too small for a child to penetrate through. Therefore, because the device is secured to adjacent balusters, access is minimized to the open space between balusters and the child will be unable to pass through or get stuck in the remaining available space.

FIG. 4(b) illustrates a close-up view of the exemplary embodiment of a child safety device in accordance with the present invention shown in FIG. 4(a), wherein each connector 403 comprises a locking end 405 and a receiving end 406 to securely hold child safety device 400 in between adjacent balusters of a balustrade.

In this exemplary embodiment, connectors 403 are constructed of a rigid, yet flexible plastic material band with locking members 406 or securely holding connectors 403 in place. Furthermore, each connector also comprises a locking mechanism 404 with a receiving member 405 for receiving and interlocking with locking members 406.

Turning next to a different type of connector in accordance with the present invention, FIG. 4(c) illustrates another exemplary embodiment of a child safety device in accordance with the present invention, comprising a single opening adapted to receive one connector to couple the device to one or more balusters of a balustrade.

Specifically, FIG. 4(c) shows child safety device 400 with a single connector port 401 for receiving a rigid or solid support member 407. Support member 407 may be constructed out of any material but preferably a solid or rigid material that will provide enough support to hold child safety device 400 safely and securely between the openings of a balustrade, for example see FIG. 5(c).

FIG. 5(a)-(f) illustrate multiple embodiments of a plurality of child safety devices in accordance with the present invention, showing different coupling configurations and designs suitable for a variety of utility and aesthetic preferences.

As previously mentioned, the number of connectors and the type of connection made may vary without limiting or deviating from the scope of the present invention. By way of example, FIG. 5(a) shows a child safety device configuration wherein an alternating height of said devices is incorporated into the balustrade. FIGS. 5(b) and 5(e) demonstrate a plurality of child safety devices secured between balusters with an upper and lower connector. In yet another embodiment, FIG. 5(c) shows a plurality of child safety devices secured with only one connector. FIG. 5(d) shows child safety devices secured with vertical connectors, from upper handrail to lower surface. Furthermore, other configurations such as crisscrossing connectors may be implemented as shown in FIG. 5(f).

Turning to the next figures, FIG. 6(a)-(b) illustrate multiple embodiments of a plurality of child safety devices in accordance with the present invention, incorporated horizontally so as to match a decorative horizontal railing often implemented in balustrades.

FIG. 6(a) illustrates a plurality of child safety devices 601 encompassed in balustrade 600 with a decorative horizontal rail 602 extending between laterally spaced balusters 603. In one embodiment, depicted in FIG. 6(a), a plurality of child safety devices 601 extending parallel to handrail 605, are secured evenly between and parallel to said decorative horizontal rail 602 and said handrail 605, and between and parallel to decorative horizontal rail 602 and the lower surface 606. Finally, yet another example of a similar embodiment as shown in FIG. 6(a), FIG. 6(b) shows a similar configuration of horizontally oriented child safety devices 610, wherein a horizontal railing 611 makes part of a balustrade 612.

A child safety device for balustrades has thus been described. The foregoing description of the various exemplary embodiments of the invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and disclosure. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. It is intended that the scope of the invention not be limited by this detailed description, but by the claims and the equivalents to the claims.