Dangerous Glass Products and Preventable Injuries

Approximately 2 years ago we published an article on the dangers of unsafe and dangeous glass products. We re-print this article because of the tragic death of a young woman who fell to her death this week after falling through a window at a hotel in downtown Atlanta. This accident was preventable but occurred because safety glass was apparently not properly used. In today’s modern age, with the known dangers involved, this is inexcusable. Our earlier blog entry is posted again in view of this tragedy:
“We are continually disturbed when we hear reports of persons injured by unsafe glass–decades after the need for “safety glazing” material (safety glass) was recognized. Our serious personal injury lawyers have delved deeply into the history of glass injuries in representing clients who have suffered what can be life-threatening injuries from unsafe glass, in premises liability cases tried successfully. We hope to share what we have learned about these dangerous products so that future injuries from dangerous glass can be prevented.
For more than thirty (30) years, the dangers of using glass that leaves sharp, jagged edges when it breaks has been known.
In a 1972 opinion, one court discussed the dangers of glass injuries from glass that was not “safety glass”: “‘Purposeful footsteps, impact, the harsh, shattering crash of jagged spears of glass falling and disintegrating on the floor, and disabling and disfiguring injuries or death — this sequence of events is acted out, according to safety experts, in 40,000 American homes annually.’” Moody v. Southland Inv. Corp., 126 Ga. App. 225, 230, 190 S.E.2d 578, 581 (1972) (quoting Wolfstone, “Glass Door Accidents,” 14 Am. Jur. Trials 101, 105).
The 1972 Moody case concerned a patio door made of non-tempered glass that shattered and injured the plaintiff. The Court discussed testimony from experts that “serious injuries are caused by nontempered glass,” and that “[t]empered glass is harder, and it won’t break as easily, and then when it breaks, it doesn’t come in sharp, jagged pieces, where you are liable to get cut.” Id. at 229, 190 S.E.2d at 581. The Court also observed that “tempered glass was available for use on the door [in question] in 1967, when it was first installed.” Id. at 228, 190 S.E.2d at 580.
For many decades, manufacturers, builders, and architects have known that “plate glass” which breaks in a sharp jagged way. Much of this information has been summarized in a Report in one of our cases prepared by Phillip L. Graitcer, DMD, MPH, who has been an Adjunct Professor at the Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Atlanta, and is the former Director of the International Unit of the “National Center for Injury Prevention and Control” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
To summarize some of the major points of this Report, at least by 1962, a national study group began studying injuries from broken glass in doors. Nationwide publicity of this problem followed, and performance standards were developed, such as ANSI Z-97.1, for safety glazing that, when impacted, was less likely to cause serious injury. A manufacturer’s trade group had developed a mandatory requirement for safety glazing in sliding aluminum doors, and proposed in the mid-1960s that all model building codes require safety glazing in glass used in doors.
By 1968, all three model building codes had adopted these requirements. In 1969, a Consumer Safety Glazing Committee was formed to promote use of safety glazing materials, and it advocated a Model Safety Glazing Bill. By 1970, states including Georgia had enacted safety glazing laws prohibiting use of anything but safety glazing materials in door glass. O.C.G.A. § 8-2-90, et seq.
In 1963 the Federal Housing Administration began requiring safety glazing in most sliding doors and other locations in new houses insured by FHA loans. Federal regulations, 16 C.F.R. part 1201 et seq., were developed that required safety glazing in exit doors and other “hazardous locations” in 1977.
Moreover, by 1963 and continuing thereafter, articles and pamphlets began to be disseminated describing the dangers of non-safety glazing material. Such articles appeared in education and other publications. Moreover, school risk managers consider glass in doors an injury risk.
Further, because ordinary glass breaks with sharp fragments, it is much more likely to cause serious injury than safety glazing. Glass used in or near exit doors is one on the most common source of injuries, although numerous glass products made of unsafe glass have continually led to serious injury and wrongful death.
It is shocking that, in a new century, dangerous products and buildings using something other than safety glazing continue to injure and kill unsuspecting children and adults. This is a public health hazard that we will continue working to stop.”

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