It is an area that often goes unnoticed by homeowners but understanding the risks in relation to glass in our homes is crucial. As surveyors conducting home and building surveys, safety glass is regularly mentioned in our reports, however its significance is easily overlooked by homeowners. In this post we will explore the benefits, applications and regulations surrounding safety glass.
Safety glass, also known as tempered or laminated glass, offers superior strength and durability compared to traditional glass. Tempered glass has been processed using thermal and chemical treatments to increase its strength. Laminated glass consists of two layers of glass with a plastic film bonded between them. These processes mean the glass is designed to resist shattering upon impact, thus significantly reducing the risk of injury. In the event of a breakage, safety glass fractures into small, less harmful pieces, mitigating the likelihood of severe cuts and lacerations. This feature not only protects individuals within the home but also ensures the structural integrity of windows, doors, and other glass elements in the event of extreme weather conditions (such as branches being blown against a window) or attempted break-ins. Safety glass also offers notable benefits in terms of energy efficiency and acoustic insulation.
Safety glass’ ability to withstand high-impact forces makes it an ideal choice for areas prone to accidents or as a deterrent to potential intruders. Glass doors, panels and windows in homes are susceptible to accidental collisions, especially in busy areas or households with young children. By installing safety glass in these locations, you significantly minimise the risk of injuries caused by shattered glass shards. Ola Brunkert, former drummer of ABBA, died as a result of falling through a glass door in 2008. On falling into the door he hit his head on the glass, whereby the shattered shards caused lacerations to his neck.
Since 2002, Building Regulations have applied to all replacement glazing and the safety elements are covered in Approved Document K. It requires that all glass fitted in critical areas, such as glazed doors, side panels and areas below 800mm, are safe. These regulations aim to prioritise occupant safety and mitigate potential hazards. It is worth noting that Building Regulations do not apply to greenhouses. Yet greenhouses are often built with the lowest grade of glass, particularly older types. As such, these structures are especially dangerous if they break.
It can be difficult to correctly identify safety glass. When carrying out surveys we look for British Standard numbers and logos imprinted somewhere on the glass, usually in the corners. These markings are a requirement of any safety glass that has been fitted, although in practice they are sometimes omitted. If the glass seems thin, is unmarked and of single glazing type then it is unlikely to be safety glass. If you receive a survey that has highlighted non safety glass in areas of your home then we would encourage you to consider replacing it. While the likelihood of a breakage may be low, the harm from the potential hazard is extremely high.