spotlight / Gadgets
Taking safety hazards for granted has a long and humorous history. Think of the slapstick-humor image of someone walking into the side of a building—it’s been around since the pratfalls of silent movies. More recently, this type of attention-getting humor has also found its way into TV commercials. One example is a cholesterol medication commercial where male twins walk together side-by-side
in a corridor, talking to one another. One strolls unaffected through an open
door while his twin smacks into the adjacent closed glass door. Humor aside,
these incidents do unfortunately happen, and sometimes with injurious results.
The increased use of glass in contemporary design has unfortunately created a number of potential safety hazards. One such problem involves large
unmarked glass wall components, which may not be seen by people coming
and going. This is especially critical with an aging population where large
unmarked glass components may not be seen. Keep in mind that where an
injury occurs, a law suit may follow.
A recent incident involved Evelyn Paswall, who went to an Apple store in
New York. The typical design of Apple stores consist of very large glass entrance walls. Evelyn, an 83-year-old grandmother, didn’t appreciate she was
heading straight for an inadequately marked glass wall as she approached
the store. She broke her nose as a result of the collision. As a result of this
incident, she sued Apple for $1 million dollars.
While it is easy to blame our increasingly litigious society and the individual for walking into a glass panel, it should be noted that the design industry
and building codes have been cognizant of human impact loads on glass for
about 40 years. The codes have responded and now limit the size, location
and type of glass where human impact loads are expected.
In 1970, State Safety Glazing Acts were enacted which required the use
of safety glazing and required transparent glass panels to be guarded and/or
marked to alert the public to their presence. While these laws focused more
on injuries resulting from broken glass, injuries may still occur from unex-
What you can’t see,
CAN hurt you
pectedly walking into an unmarked
glass door or panel with toughened
While it is impractical to eliminate large unmarked expanses of
glass, they do represent an unnecessary liability. There are methods to
prevent or at least reduce the possibility of people accidentally walking
In addition to legislative requirements for conspicuously marking
large expanses of glass, similar recommendations are also found in industry standards which consistently
recommend separating people from
the glass, or at a minimum providing a warning to alert people of the
presence of the glass.
Recommended methods to prevent glass panels from appearing
to be open walkways or doorways
include using guardrails or other
barriers, such as plants; or conspicuously identifying the glass with
etching, tapes or decals. Property
managers should understand the
regulatory requirements and applicable industry standards related to
this issue. While too often viewed
as humorous, people inadvertently
walking into large unmarked glass
panels is a real occurrence that affects people, including the property
Methods of preventing this incident from occurring are known
and can be inexpensively installed.
It’s your liability, manage it as you
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