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    July 2012

    Hazards of Defective Windows

    We look through windows every day, but it’s easy to overlook the safety risks they present. When windows fall or shatter, serious injuries such as nerve or soft tissue damage, head trauma, or amputation can result. Injuries can occur from opening or closing the window or pushing on it too hard; sometimes they occur without any contact at all. Consider these risks when establishing protocols for window installation, maintenance, and use, and follow these guidelines:

    Use Safety Glass to Reduce the Risk of Shattering

    If possible, install safety glass in windows with which human impact is likely, such as floor-length windows, doors containing glass, or windows in common areas of residence halls or crowded hallways.

    The National Institute of Building Sciences’ article on Glazing Hazard Mitigation lists common types of safety glass. When retrofitting a building, it may be more cost-effective to install laminate materials over existing glass.

    Check your state and local building codes to ensure compliance with regulations when you install safety glass and before scheduled maintenance inspections. Additionally, some localities regulate glass type according to environmental threats.

    Install and Inspect With Consistency

    Scheduled inspections by facilities staff—preferably annually—can reveal weathering, infestation, or rusted parts, all of which can lead to a frame falling from its setting. Instruct facilities staff on how to install windows, and train maintenance staff on safe window settings in case they change during cleaning. Regular inspections by other staff, such as resident advisors during move-in and move-out days, may reveal obvious defects such as broken glass, difficulty opening or closing windows, or malfunctioning locks.

    Train on Reporting Procedures and Safe Use

    Institutions that fail to correct window malfunctions after receiving reports of defects are likely to be held legally responsible when an injury occurs. An institution’s records of maintenance requests, repairs, and inspections can demonstrate that it took reasonable care to prevent an injury. Effective record keeping can also help manage conditions before they cause injury and track progress on pending requests to identify impediments to a timely response.

    Train resident advisors, instructors, and office managers to report maintenance issues. Notify students about reporting procedures as well, and use the housing handbook to discourage them from tampering with window locks and other unsafe behavior. Consider posting an online reporting form to encourage students to report routine and serious conditions, as Pennsylvania State University at Altoona has done on its maintenance website. Always provide an alternate means for students to seek immediate repairs of emergency conditions and physical hazards, including broken window glass.

    When a defect is identified, post signs or cordon off the window to prevent use.


    Residence Hall Safety

    General Window Maintenance Tips: What to Look For


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