Volume 44, Issue 9 - September 2009



Advocates for Safe Glass Take on Glass Furniture Safety

Greg Abel has been involved with the glass industry since 2001, when son Jarred was injured in a wired-glass accident and suffered severe nerve and tendon damage in his left arm (see November 2006 USGlass, page 98, for related story). Now, however, the nonprofit organization Advocates for Safe Glass (ASG) in Eugene, Ore., which Abel founded with the goal of banning wired glass, has a new goal: improving the safety of glass used in furniture.

“I had to take a little sabbatical from ASG to regroup—after having put in several years in the battle with wired glass, it just had taken its toll,” Abel says. However, in that time he began receiving calls from law firms around the country in regard to a new safety issue: “children being either injured by wired glass or young people actually dying as a result of impacting glass in furniture.”

According to Abel, “There are more than 20,000 furniture glass-related injuries per year that are treated in emergency rooms, of which 3 to 6 result in fatalities, and most of these are of young people.”

In fact, a review conducted earlier this year by Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, found that many injuries involving glass tabletops could have been avoided if tempered glass had been used. Using a computer algorithm to search electronic records, researchers identified 174 glass-table injuries logged by the hospital’s emergency department between 1995 and 2007. In reviewing the patients’ charts, they concluded that half of the injuries would have been preventable or less severe with safety glass. Cuts were most often on the face, especially in young children, followed by feet, legs, hands and arms. Forty percent of patients needed imaging to find buried pieces of glass and 80 percent needed surgical repair.

“This is a serious safety hazard with a simple remedy,” says Donald Mays, senior director of product safety and technical policy for Consumers Union. “The use of tempered glass can significantly reduce the more than 20,000 serious injuries incurred each year from the use of common annealed glass in furniture.”

Abel adds, “It just killed me to think about; the latest being this little 11-year-old girl in Providence, R.I.”

The use of glass in furniture has already gained attention and ASTM International is currently working to develop a standard.

ASTM Subcommittee F15.42 on Furniture Safety, which reports to Committee F15 on Consumer Products, balloted a draft standard earlier this year. However, an ASTM representative told USGlass that numerous negatives were returned, which are now being addressed. All must be resolved before the ballot can move forward.

Mays says that he is working with ASTM on the development of the standard and expects that many of the negatives will be resolved soon so that they can move forward on the next ballot. He explains some of the negatives related to the language used in the proposed standard.

“We want the language to be clear so that it cannot be misinterpreted,” Mays says.

Abel says that rather than pushing ASTM Subcommittee F15.42 on Furniture Safety to publish its drafted standard on furniture (because a standard is only voluntary and cannot be enforced unless mandated by code or law), he hopes to work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to regulate glass used in furniture. Currently, the CPSC does not mandate safety glass for tabletops.

“We don’t necessarily need an ASTM standard, what we need is for the CPSC to do the job that they’re required to do by Congress,” Abel says.

Abel also is going directly to that source, and is seeking the support of several Congressional representatives.

“Because Congress is getting ready to go out I’m not at liberty to divulge their names, but I’ve got a couple of members of Congress who are very sincere in assisting to do something with this,” Abel says. “I intend here within the next six weeks to travel back to Washington, D.C., to meet again with the CPSC and see about challenging the fact that they have not stepped up to the plate with regard to this. The injury data is there; there’s no reason in the world why they haven’t done anything.”

Despite this new focus, Abel is firm that he will not be losing track of fire-rated glazing-related issues. The organization’s website will continue to provide updates on the three areas of focus for ASG: glazing in furniture; the hose stream test; and barriers to radiant heat, which, Abel says, “seems to be ignored a lot.” The website also will include an “Ask the Expert” section, where experts from opposing sides of the fire-rated glazing issues will provide their viewpoints to various questions.

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