Wired Glass FAQ

Summary

Wired glass is widely used in buildings across Canada as a fire protection glazing material. Most people have a false perception that wired glass is designed to be safe against impact. Actually, wired glass is more dangerous than regular glass because it breaks more easily than plain glass and should someone fall into wired glass the wires will hold the shards of broken glass in place increasing the severity of the injury.

Accidents involving wired glass have led to severe injuries resulting in amputations, paralysis, impaired mobility and even death. The intent of our outreach is to make a compelling case for the removal of wired glass in human traffic locations in buildings across Canada.

What is Wired Glass?

  • Wired glass is a fire-rated glass that is embedded with a mesh of steel wires that holds broken glass together in case of a fire. This helps reduce the spread of smoke through a building even if the glass is broken.
  • Historically, it was the only type of fire-rated glass available.
  • But wired glass is not a safety glass. It does not meet modern test standards for safety against human impact.

Where is Wired Glass used?

  • Wired glass is used mostly in commercial and institutional buildings where fire-rated glass is required in fire separations. It is commonly used in schools, hospitals and retirement homes, etc.

What is the problem with Wired Glass?

  • Wired glass has always been a fire-rated glass. It has never been a safety-rated glass.
  • Historically, no glazing material could offer both fire and safety ratings, so the building codes prioritized fire protection over impact safety and permitted the use of wired glass.
  • As a result, there have been many accidents where people fell into or through wired glass, causing significant injuries.

What is new?

  • New glazing materials are available that offer both fire-ratings and safety ratings.
  • Accordingly, there is no longer a need to prioritize fire protection over impact safety so permission to use wired glass is being withdrawn worldwide. The US International Building Code effectively banned wired glass in 2006.
  • Canada’s glass standards have not been updated since 1990 and the building codes across the country still permit the use of wired glass.
  • There continue to be injuries in Canada as a result of the continued use of wired glass, despite the global acknowledgement that wired glass is not safe.
  • Several recent wired glass related injuries have resulted in lawsuits against the building owners and occupants such as school boards claiming that wired glass was known to be unsafe but was used anyway.

 Injuries and Lawsuits

  • Global TV reported in January 2016 that as many as 1 person gets injured per day due to wired glass in Canada. See story here.
  • The Ontario School Board Insurance Exchange has a Risk Management Advisory on unsafe glass. It says wired glass can be extremely dangerous and can cause horrible injuries. It notes that over 13 years there were 107 claims against schools for glass injuries costing nearly $3.2 million.
  • In 2001 Jason Hubben bled to death in his Edmonton school after severing an artery in his leg after impacting wired glass. He was 14 years old.
  • A student, Sean Lloyd, filed a $5 million lawsuit on April 29, 2014 against Halton Catholic District School Board. The student badly lacerated his arm pushing through wired glass installed in a door. The lawsuit alleges the school board was negligent in failing to replace wired glass with safer materials.
  • A lawsuit was filed against the Toronto District School Board in July 2010 by a student, Ravelle Sidial, after he went through a wired glass door in his school and suffered severed tendons in his right hand and severed an artery. He sued the school and school board for negligence.
  • In 2009, Devon King pushed his arm through a wired glass door at the Days Inn hotel in Kingston and suffered permanent and serious injury to his shoulder and arm. He sued the hotel for negligence.
  • It has been reported that insurance companies have started to mandate that school boards replace wired glass with safer options.

Safer options are available

  • It is very important to remember that most locations where wired glass has been used require fire-rated glass. In general, you cannot replace wired glass with tempered or laminated glass since they are not fire-rated. Replacement fire-rated glass must be individually certified and labeled!
  • For fire-rated applications such as fire doors and side lites in schools, there are modern materials that are both fire-rated and impact-safe.
        • Glass ceramics emerged as a leading fire-rated glazing about 15 years ago. They pass both fire tests and human impact tests. They are transparent, do not contain any wires, and are thin like regular glass (5-8mm).
        • Intumescent glass are a new class of glazing that is both fire and impact safe. They are thick (eg. 23mm for 60 minute fire-rating).
        • Organic coated wired glass is a UL certified product that combines certified wired glass with a specially certified surface laminated film. Since most films are highly flammable, the building inspector will only approve coated glass that is UL certified and labeled.
  • Use only certified and labeled glass.

Test Standards and Building Codes

  • Fire-rated glass must pass the required fire tests and each piece of glass must be appropriately labeled to pass building inspection.
  • Impact-safe glass must pass the required impact tests.
  • Materials that are both fire-rated and impact-safe must be appropriately labeled.

Next Steps

  • New construction should never use wired glass. There are safer alternatives available.
  • Renovations, repair, replacement should never use wired glass. Installers should be wary of liability risks in installing wired glass anywhere, even in old buildings.
  • For existing installations, wired glass should be replaced with safer options that are certified and labeled.