Railing Assurance  
Implications for Safety and Liability  
b y A n d r e w C h a t f i e l d  
lass railings are increasingly  
incorporated into architec-  
tural design. As glass has be-  
come more prevalent, growing safety  
concerns have led to modifications of  
the International Building Code (IBC).  
In addition, model code referencing  
practices have created marketplace  
confusion. Here’s what you need to  
know about recent code changes to  
ensure compliance and safety for  
When the IBC was modified last year  
to include more stringent requirements Recent code changes for glass railings are now in place so it’s important to  
for glass railings, it had a broad impact understand what the requirements will be for each jurisdiction.  
on railing installation on the majority  
of jurisdictions in North America. gent codes, such as the Los Angeles GET CLARITY,ACHIEVE BALANCE  
These changes have affected installa- County Building Code or Miami-Dade  
Ensuring safety and limiting liability  
tion requirements for the interior build- Building Code, are commonly over-ref- is a top priority,but that doesn’t mean it  
ing spaces as well as the façade erenced outside of these locales. This can’t be done cost-effectively.It all starts  
envelope. Two changes in particular has led to marketplace confusion about with an understanding of how the IBC  
have had the most impact:  
which code to reference for installation has evolved and impacted local juris-  
Tempered-laminated glass must be and all it entails for safety and liability, dictions. From there,it’s a matter of un-  
used in any installation in which an not to mention associated costs.What’s derstanding which code to follow based  
individual could walk beneath a bar- often lost is that the code you truly need upon the specific application and geog-  
rier that is not permanently pro- to follow should be based on your spe- raphy. You should always consult with  
tected from falling glass.  
A top rail must be applied across the  
cific application and local geography.  
the local authority having jurisdiction  
to confirm local requirements and  
top of the glass. The only exception UNDERSTANDING LIABILITY  
Also,look to the experts as a resource  
to this is if the local building author-  
ity waives the requirement.  
With changing regulation and refer-  
encing practices, it can be challenging and guide for understanding codes.  
to keep up with the latest code require- This provides the clarity and assurance  
ments. Often, calculations derived needed, and lets you focus on your  
through independent testing are pre- business of installation. s  
Mounting marketplace concerns over sented incorrectly and do not  
safety and liability have resulted from comply with a particular code ad-  
recent superstorms and high-profile equately. When specifying, in-  
projects involving failed glass railings. stallers need to ensure products  
In some cases where the IBC has been stipulated are properly certifi-  
adopted, local jurisdictions have cho- cated to mitigate risks and liabil-  
sen to amend it to be more restrictive ity. This requires a certification  
for safety. However, some highly strin- from a governing authority.  
A n d r e w C h a t f i e l d is  
the director of architectural  
glass systems for the Wagner  
Companies in Milwaukee.  
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | May 2016