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Complete Guide to Bollards

Bollards can be an essential part of the safety of your site, although they are often an afterthought when the workplace is being planned. Choosing the right type of bollard, and the right place to install it, can keep your building safe from accidental or deliberate impacts, help to keep pedestrians safe while on site, and even provide a form of traffic control. Read on for our comprehensive guide to bollards...

What is a bollard?

Bollard [bol-erd], noun: one of a series of short posts for excluding or diverting motor vehicles from a road, lawn, or the like.[1]

In the classical sense, a bollard is what you tie your boat up to on the dock. The modern definition, though, refers to a short but sturdy post, securely installed and used to either protect people and buildings from vehicles, to clearly delineate pedestrian and vehicle zones or to otherwise prevent a vehicle from accessing a particular area. You can see bollards almost anywhere that you go – some people have folding models on their driveways to prevent unauthorised parking, you can see them preventing vehicles from accessing pedestrianised high streets and they are in supermarket car parks to prevent impacts with cash machines, buildings and pedestrian paths, for example.

What are the different types of bollards?

Bollards are readily available in a wide variety of different types, designed for different use cases and with particular features. Some of the most popular types are:

Warehouse bollards

Black and Yellow Warehouse Bollard

Anyone that has spent any time at all in a warehouse or manufacturing facility knows that it can be a particular kind of organised chaos. Forklift trucks zoom back and forth, pickers and other foot-traffic are constantly moving around and machinery and other equipment is always running. So, what happens if one of those forklift trucks bumps into a high racking stack? Or veers into a mission-critical piece of equipment? You’re probably looking at lost production time, repairs or replacements for expensive stock and equipment and possible injuries to personnel. Warehouse bollards are a cost-effective way to avert the danger – install them at racking corners or around key equipment and machinery and your mis-steered forklift truck will hit the bollard instead of your goods or kit. Obviously, that's still not ideal – you might end up with a damaged forklift and injured driver. That is why warehouse bollards are typically brightly coloured or hazard-marked (bright yellow and black stripes, for example); this way they catch the eye and provide a visual warning as well as a physical barrier.

Parking bollards

Galvanised Folding Parking Post - Padlocked

Parking bollards can be used in two ways – first, to restrict access to an area or a space and, secondly, as a parking stop. For the first use case you might want to think about fold-flat, removable or telescopic bollards: they can prevent vehicles from going where you don’t want them to go, and then be easily and quickly removed or collapsed to allow entry when necessary (so if you need to reserve a specific parking space, for example). For parking stops, you will need a rubberised model – these are typically installed at the inside edge of your parking space so that a vehicle cannot overshoot the parameters of the space and impede a walkway or adjacent space. Why rubber? Because it is just yielding enough to minimise damage to a vehicle that bumps up against it, but strong and sturdy enough to stop the vehicle (these models usually have a steel core).

Security bollards

Traditional Black Coated Bollard (Below Surface Mounted)

The bollard is an often-overlooked security measure, but it can be a truly effective one. A report by Cardtronics (the cash machine provider) indicates that ‘dangerous attacks’ on cash machines are soaring – and one of the key methods that criminals are using is the ram-raid.[2]

This is where a vehicle is deliberately crashed into the machine to cause damage and hopefully access the money inside. The problem is not specific to cash machines though – high-end retailers are also being attacked in this way[3], and so it is important for every business to take steps to protect themselves. A simple bollard can act as a deterrent to the would-be thieves but also as a physical impediment: it is hard to ram into a shop front or warehouse if there is a solid steel bollard securely installed deep in the ground, in the way.

What are bollards made from?

As with the variety of designs, shapes and sizes, there is a range of different materials used in manufacturing bollards. We have already mentioned rubber bollards as being a great solution for parking areas, due to the fact that they won’t scratch a vehicle's paintwork as others might – here are some other material options.

Metal Bollards

Galvanised Steel Bollard 1400mm (Ragged) 101 to 114mm Diameter

Among the most versatile kinds, both in terms of use case and the actual nature of the bollard, metal (typically steel) bollards are the number one choice for a good reason. Fold-flat, telescopic, removeable and permanent bollards are all commonly manufactured from metals – primarily due to the rigidity, stability, strength, cost and relatively light weight of the material (particularly in comparison to concrete). You can find metal bollards on your high street as decorative or aesthetic elements for shop exteriors, inside the warehouse and protecting shop fronts and cash machines.

Concrete Bollards

The concrete bollard shares some of the features of metal models – they’re strong and rigid, for example – but they are much less versatile. These types of bollards are typically static or fixed in place and are used primarily as security measures. Aesthetically, these bollards are usually function-over-form, although spherical and even cube types can be a good look if well maintained.

Plastic Bollards

Plastic bollard for car parks

Plastic bollards are just as versatile as metal variants, but they suffer from a lack of strength and rigidity – they are a poor security option as a vehicle could simply smash through them with little trouble. They can be a good car park option, however, as they are long-lasting and will not scratch the vehicle paint on light impacts.

Wood Bollards

Wooden bollards are less common and you are more likely to see them in a recreational setting like a picnic area or playground than on an industrial site. Wooden bollards can be good for security purposes, however, if the right specifications are followed – the unit would have to be considerably thicker than a metal model to get the same impact resistance, for example.

Where are bollards mostly used?

To put it simply – bollards are mostly used wherever something or someone needs protection from accidental or deliberate impact from a vehicle. This includes:

  • Warehouses/distribution centres
  • Manufacturing facilities/factories
  • Car parks
  • High streets
  • Outside retail outlets
  • Protecting cash machines

The secondary use for bollards (specifically, preventing access) means that they are also found in:

  • Private roads
  • Driveways
  • Pedestrianised zones
  • Cycle zones

How are bollards installed?

For advice on how to install your particular model of bollard, refer to manufacturer or supplier instructions/guides. For most, you will need either a concrete surface or a deeper concrete foundation to ensure that the bollard is as secure and stable as can be.

There are, however, some basic variations in the way that bollards are installed:

Flanged or bolt-down

This type of installation requires minimal digging into the ground and is less labour-intensive as a result, but it is not as resistant to impacts as other installations. Essentially, the bollard has a flanged base, which can be bolted into surface-level concrete – ideal for areas where digging up the flooring is not ideal (or possible), like warehouses and high streets, for example.

Fold-down bollards are surface-mounted and the base plate conceals and houses the bollard ‘hinge’.

Sunk-in or ragged

These bollards require a deeper installation – they are fixed into place by first excavating a hole (follow manufacturer's recommendations for hole dimensions), pouring concrete and siting your bollard. Once the concrete has cured, the bollard will be firmly fixed into place, making these a much more secure and impact-proof option. For even greater stability, many ram-resistant bollards require an extra deep sub-surface installation.

Telescopic bollards are sunk-in, and the post emerges from the sub-surface housing as and when needed.

What bollard shapes and finishes are available?

Depending on the use that you need your bollard for, there is a range of options when it comes to finishes and shapes. For warehouse bollards, specifically for rack or equipment protection, the norm would be a rounded or squared post in a bright, high-visibility yellow with or without black markings to make it stand out. For other purposes, you will be able to choose from:

Top style

Rounded, slanted, ball-topped, domed – this is really down to personal preference as it is a primarily aesthetic decision, although bollards with a flat top might encourage pedestrians to sit or even stand on the bollard.


The finish you choose will probably be informed by your installation location – front-of-house bollards tend not to be simply galvanised steel or plain concrete, for instance. Common choices are:

Stainless steel – a nice, high-polish finish that adds a touch of style without sacrificing utility. A good option for public or customer car parks, around the front of your building, on high streets and other areas where the look of the bollard is important.

Galvanised – these are manufactured with less focus on how they look, and so are better suited to personnel-only car parks and areas where the public will not typically go.

Powder-coated – useful for where colouring is required, powder-coated bollards can be finished in any colour you choose. Powder-coating is a great option where the bollard needs to be eye-catching.

Decorative – these posts are often cast-iron, and are used to give a more traditional look. You will need to make sure that the painted finish on these posts is maintained to ensure that rust does not take hold.

Wooden bollards will need to be treated so they do not prematurely deteriorate due to the weather – so look for a waterproof finish or varnish. Be aware that you will need to maintain this coating throughout the life of the bollard.

Concrete bollards are typically only available with one finish – plain, grey concrete. You can find different shapes (spheres, for example) to give more of a stylish touch and, placed thoughtfully, they can be both inconspicuous and effective.

Plastic bollards are among the most hard wearing, and as long as you are careful about buying the right type they should last for many years with a minimum of maintenance. Ensure that, if the bollard is outside, it is UV-resistant otherwise that lovely black colouring will quickly become cloudy and look shabby.



[1] Bollard Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com

[2] Victimless-Crime-whitepaper.pdf (cardtronics.co.uk) 

[3] Four men jailed for ram-raids across luxury West End stores (yahoo.com) 


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Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

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