Latest news from Durable 2: Glazing Health & Safety

Toughened glass may not be as tough as you think

06 October 2014

There are more than a billion panes of installed glass in London alone. And one fact continually reinforced to Glazing Health & Safety experts Durable Limited, is that most companies just do not know what the glass installed in their building is.

This simple observation means that all those companies are technically in breach of Regulation 14 of the Workplace (Health Safety & Welfare) Regulations, because they have an obligation to assess the risk of glazing to people, whether internal or external, and having knowledge of what the installed glass is essential in achieving this.

But even knowing what the glazing is may still raise issues. Take for instance that reassuring term ‘Toughened Glass’ with its further reassuring kite mark. The theory is that when toughened glass breaks it does so by breaking into small angular fragments without dangerous edges, typified by the way a car windscreen breaks. When toughened glass fails, and it does for unexplained reasons, the problem is not the sharpness of the shards but the sheer weight of the glass.

The risk from toughened glass is not easily understood and defies logic. Toughened glass can suddenly and inexplicably break for no apparent reason. The experts know this can be as a result of a flaw in manufacture which results in minute fragments of nickel sulphide being present in the glass. Unexplained breakage can also result with unobvious issues with the glass edge, from problems with architectural design and from stress.

This sudden unexplained or ‘spontaneous’ breakage of toughened glass has happened more than the glazing industry would like to admit. For instance it has occurred at the IMAC centre in Waterloo and at Heathrow Airport where glass cascaded down to an area that at another time could have been frequented by passengers. Durable applied window film to ensure that should panes break in the future the glass will be held in place for safe removal.

The increasing use of toughened glass for balustrading is another area requiring attention. By definition balustrades tend to be where people are and the potential that the glass can fail is a real concern. Durable were called into Chelsea Westminster Hospital to apply safety film to a new installation when a pane broke.

Durable Limited has been consulted often where there could be a risk from existing glazing. They can help recognise installed glass, can assist in creating an indemnified Glazing Risk Assessment and, by installing safety window film, can ensure protection against the potential risks resulting from unexplained breakage of toughened glass.

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