Consumers beware!

Glass tempered for your safety

In public and commercial buildings, builders must use toughened, tempered or laminated safety glass doors. Both are not easy to break and even if they do, these shatter into fragments

Glass tempered for your safety

Pushpa Girimaji

  • I saw on social media, a shocking video of a glass door at a bank in Kerala breaking and causing fatal injuries to a woman who bumped into it on her way out, without realising that the glass door was closed. This has got me worried because these days most malls, retail outlets and commercial complexes have glass doors and sometimes you do not even realise that there is a door. How risky is the use of glass doors?

The accident at the Perumbavoor branch of Bank of Baroda this June was indeed tragic, but it need not have been so. If only the bank had bothered about the safety of its customers and installed tempered safety glass made to Indian Standards specifications, 46-year-old Beena Paul would be alive today.

The bank’s door was made of annealed glass, which by all safety norms, should not have been used in the door. This glass not only breaks easily on human impact, but produces jagged shards that can cause grievous injury and death. And that’s exactly what happened to Beena — the sharp glass pieces pierced her abdomen, leading to her death. If the bank had used third-party quality certified, tempered safety glass, it would not have broken so easily and even if it did, it would have disintegrated into small, blunt granular pieces, least likely to cause such injuries.

That should answer your question about the safety of glass doors — the risk of injury arises only when builders install unsafe, annealed glass, instead of toughened, tempered safety glass or laminated safety glass. Both are not easy to break and even if they do shatter, the former breaks into small granular fragments while with the latter, the pieces are remain together due to the plastic layer that is baked between the two pieces of glass.

Of course, just any tempered or laminated glass will not do. They have to have the required thickness and should have passed a number of safety tests such as fragmentation test, resistance to shock, resistance to human impact, fracture and adhesion test, etc. That is the reason why they should comply with the standards formulated by the Bureau of Indian Standards and should bear the ISI mark.

Since ‘walk through’ accidents involving glass doors or partitions or walls are caused on account of the see-through nature of the glass or in other words, the impression of unimpeded path of travel, it is also absolutely necessary to have manifestations to make the glass visible.

In fact, an important document in this regard is the ‘Guidelines on the use of Glass in Buildings: Human Safety’. Drawn up by the Confederation of Construction Products and Services (CCPS), a non profit organisation, with active participation of all stakeholders, both private and government, the guidelines tell you what kind of glass should be used in certain critical areas of buildings to prevent injuries to users. The guidelines also tell you about the kind of manifestations the glass should have to make it visible. Brought out first in 2007, the guidelines have been updated regularly, the last being in 2015.

The Central Public Works Department, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, has often written to the state governments and asked them to incorporate the guidelines in their building bylaws so as to make it mandatory. I must also mention that Part 4 (safety related to human impact) of the Code of Practice for Use of Glass in Buildings, brought out by the BIS, also deals with the topic. The glass and glazing safety requirements also figure in the National Building Code-2016.

Thus we have very good codes, guidelines and standards on glass safety in buildings, but what is absolutely essential is their stringent implementation by local authorities.

  • How does one ensure that only safe glass doors are installed?

As far as public and commercial buildings are concerned, consumers must demand that the civic authorities stringently enforce glass safety norms. When it comes to residential buildings, those buying the apartments should cross check and make sure that the builder has used only ISI-mark appropriate tempered or laminated safety glass. If you are renovating your home and using glass for doors, walls, partitions, bathrooms or even skylight, you must make sure that the glass has the relevant ISI mark.

In fact, from April 1, 2021, ISI certification becomes mandatory for tempered and laminated safety glass. As per the Safety Glass (Quality Control) order issued by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, no safety glass can be sold or used without the ISI mark, indicating their conformity with IS 2553(Part 1) 2018: Safety Glass specification for architectural, building and general uses.

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