To Comply or Not to Comply?
Indeed, that is the question. This short review of UK safe glass law examines its success and failure since 1982.
In the Beginning
Little safeguard was on offer during booming post-War glass usage.
- BS6262:1982 Glazing for Buildings marked a sea change. Becoming the bible of glass trade practice, it first identified those “critical locations” within any building needing safe glass. Now BS6262:2005-4 Safety Related to Human Impact.
- “Marking of glass” in critical locations pinpoints each pane’s safety status and a person accountable for it. Correct marking is vital.
- BS6206:1981: first testing schedule, defining impact resistance for glazing within critical areas. Updated by BS-EN 12600:2002.
- Building Regulations impose parallel safe glass laws for new or refurbished premises.
- Regulation 14: Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 targets working premises. Managers must now account for safe glass. The unwary, beware! Regulation 14 cannot be dismissed lightly. You are held strictly to account.
In Common law, “Rimmer v Liverpool City Council” 1985 defines a duty of care owed to tenants. Glass fitted before 1982 must now comply with current regulation.“Ignore Rimmer at one’s peril” warned the Glass & Glazing Federation (GGF).
Effective safe glass works best within new build, with checks throughout design and site phases. Yet even this is not foolproof. Wide upgrading in schools reveals that “ticking a box” does not always equal safe glass.
Despite useful progress, non-compliance remains stubborn and worrying. Visiting over 250 assorted premises each year, one risk assessor hardly ever finds one complying fully with present laws. And thirty years after BS6262:1982 arrived and promised us so much?
Regulations are shelled like peas. If lacking proper supervision, it’s all only words on paper. Failure to weld supervision onto lawmaking hobbled safe glass from the outset. Fear has faded away – any fear of hurt from unsafe glass or its legal revenge.
Checking is now down to the owner. Unless trained, how does one judge safe glass? At a glance or “well, it looks OK, let’s risk it”? But the untrained are in the dock when things turn ugly. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) mantra? “Read the regulations and apply them.” Good luck.
From 6th April 2008, Corporate Manslaughter charges are to be brought against those people deemed responsible for not adequately protecting the lives of their staff members and members of the public who come into contact with unsafe glass.
Outside of new build, judging safe glass approaches DIY. Free surveys abound. But “free” aims to induce a costly glass upgrade service. The status of free advice? A personal opinion.
Many risk assessors apply the same simplistic “critical locations” safety diagram to any building. Enough for new build perhaps, deadly for working premises. The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) states clearly that the “one size fits all” template cannot be justified.
Rooting out unsafe glass demands experience and deep knowledge of regulation. Before applying them without fear or favour to each individual case. Nothing less is acceptable.
The safety sector itself fails to promote safe glass properly. Glass is unfashionable. Perhaps a flurry when new safe glass law emerges. But interest soon fizzles out.
If glass were Ebola, resources would swamp it. But it’s only glass. Around us all day, every day. Lacking proactive control, it’s capable of killing or maiming just about anybody. Yet today’s regulation regime still puts its money on retrospective legal redress.