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Jun 19 2013

WW: Are the kids to blame?

Category: Glass,Wordless WednesdayLori @ 1:19 pm Comments (14)

Last Friday I posted an article about a school district settlement with a student, after a severe injury due to impact with traditional wired glass.  The article mentioned that a “15-year-old high school student fell while climbing atop a stack of rolled up wrestling mats.”  What the article didn’t say was that the mats had been rolled up between practices, and the student was helping to set up – the mats were stuck together and he climbed up to help free the mat and slipped, impacting the glass.  His injury was horrific, and he’s lucky to be alive.

What left me wordless was when I received a comment on that post, stating that most wired glass injuries are due to kids’ bad behavior, “out of control brats”, and liberal parenting.  The commenter suggested that we should “let natural selection run its course.”  Wow.  I don’t think my kids are badly-behaved, but they run, jump, horse around, and sometimes they do dumb things.  They’re kids.  I did plenty of dumb things when I was a kid.  Not to mention that there are many cases of adults injured by wired glass, and documented incidents of kids who were not behaving badly when they were injured.  And “natural selection”?  I won’t even go there.

I’m not sure who posted this or what his/her motivation was, but in the last few days there have been many thoughtful and informed comments left in response.  I wanted to draw your attention to them.  To read the complete comments, refer to the previous post.

Greg Abel, Advocates for Safe Glass:

“…I am the founder and chair of an organization called Advocates For Safe Glass. I founded this shortly after my own son Jarred was severely injured by wired glass while exiting the sports complex at the University Of Oregon in 2001. My wife  Kathy would tell you that I became obsessed with the question of wired glass in relation to human impact, if my obsession was correct I will only say, that is what parents do when they have a child of their own or learn of a child injured, we try to fix it and hopefully prevent feature injuries from happening. What I did at this point was to spend countless hours researching wired glass and injury data not only here in the US but abroad. What I learned was quite startling. Wired Glass is not safe glass and was determined so by the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1977. It was further determined in the UK in 1994 to be an unsafe product and was banned from use in hazardous locations in the very country which was the leading manufacture of wired glass the UK. But this unsafe traditional wired glass product continued to be allowed to be sold in this country because of the dominance of the wired glass industry on virtually every regulatory body. And because of the misguided blame on the victims themselves….”

Eric Tengowski, Engineering Specialties Company:

“You beat me to the punch. I was going to ask Mr. Gunter for some backup to that claim. His comment seems to have more of a political agenda and this isn’t the blog for politics. I’m guessing Mr. Gunter doesn’t have kids, but if he did, they would be perfect children – no doubt.

The work you (Mr. Abel) have done and continue to do is admirable. Thanks for helping make us all a little bit safer. Are you ready to take on the latest and greatest security issues now?”

David DeFilippo, TSOI/Kobus Associates:

“Kids are Kids – Insurance settlements are not replacements for lives. In my humble opinion, changes like requiring schools to fix this issue will only happen when insurance companies force the schools into action or pay higher premiums for not fixing it. You could replace a lot of wire glass for $ 2M plus a child may still be alive.”

Len Brunette, President of Safe Glass Solutions:

“…It’s unfortunate that while we now understand the danger of this product we have to realize that there are miles of square footage of it in our public facilities. Probably the greatest use of this product is in our public schools, facilities we send our most precious and innocent members of our families to each and everyday. We must take actions to address the existing product and make it a “safe” product until it can be changed to one of the newer and improved life safety products…”

Charles Hall, Advocates for Safe Glass:

“As a father of two boys and as a responsible citizen, I find the whole wired glass situation beyond ridiculous. Here we have the problem identified, the remedy available and the tragic results of negligence evidenced in maiming, disfigurement and death, all in plain view. For five plus years I have been assisting Mr. Abel in his efforts to effect a change and I am still perplexed at the seeming indifference the governing bodies display. What more must be done to create a motivation to change?

What are the true reasons for the lack of action? Is the attitude of the angry and resentful Gunter more pervasive than I would like to believe? Natural selection? A large part of natural selection is the adults of a species is nurturing and protecting their offspring to improve the percentage of survival…As fellow parents and citizens I would hope that others would join in the efforts to ensure the well being of our future generations.”

Vicki Walker, Former Oregon State Senator:

“As Mr. Abel points out in his response to “Gunter,” his statements are completely unfounded, leaving the uninformed reader even more uninformed. While the Internet has afforded us a tremendous opportunity to broaden our universe of knowledge, it also has its drawbacks when bloggers can hide behind the mask of anonymity. “Gunter’s” post is so utterly absurd it makes you wonder who would say such a thing? Certainly not a parent of one of these injured children and young adults, certainly not an educator who witnesses the carnage and trauma inflicted upon these kids, and certainly not anyone concerned about safety in our schools.

Mr. DeFilippo understands this kind of a settlement is hopefully a pathway for insurance companies to start demanding that school districts replace or retrofit existing wired glass. Unfortunately, it’s always about money in the end. It was about money for the wired glass cartel that made this dangerous product in the first place. They knew it could be made safer, but they chose not to because it cost a few dollars more. And by loading up the regulatory committees with wired glass advocates, they kept efforts at bay to develop and require safer products be installed in our schools, gymnasiums, day care centers and even in hospital waiting rooms!

It’s not about politics…it’s about money. And if school districts choose not to heed the warnings that this glass is unsafe, then it is a risk they take when it comes to paying out on a claim. Unfortunately, the risk they take is with our children’s safety, and that truly is unforgivable.”

Donn Harter, Director of Technical Services, Americas Glass Association:

“…Schools and other public buildings continue to avoid safe-guarding the millions of square feet of the latent product, wired and other annealed glass. Scores of articles have been written about the failures of wired glass by Greg Abel, myself and a few others, yet to no avail. The schools present the worst exposure to our unsuspecting youth. Whether playing or accidentally falling into annealed glass, the results ate traumatic. Lives have been claimed and permanent injuries sustained.

The remedies are here. Replacement with approved safety glass or filming. The schools are aware. The publicity of horrendous accidents and enormous settlements are eventually made public. It seems that the majority of school accidents never see the light of day. The liability factors and tremendous lawsuits (by some of the victims that bring suit) are an enormous cost to schools and school districts. Yet, this is the top of the iceberg. The loss of lives and permanent disability are the real issues.

Schools claim they can’t afford to retrofit non-safety glazing windows and doors with safety glass. Yet, they will pay millions in laws suits. So the maiming goes on. As an example, in a recent settlement of a 2 million dollar lawsuit where a student went though a non-safety glazed window, the cost of filming that opening would have been less than $200!”

Brian, Glazing Supplier:

“Over the years I’ve worked with various types of safety glazing products, most well known include tempered and laminated glass. When I began in the glass industry over 20 yrs ago, the company I worked for distributed cases (truckloads) of glass including laminated safety glazing to school districts. During this time we also sold many cases of polished wire glass. At the time, many believed that this too was a safety glazing product. The belief was that the wires embedded inside would make the glass stronger & safer. In reality, it is just the opposite. The wire makes the glass weaker and when broken pose an even greater threat to injury! With so many choices available today, and even ways to make existing wire glass safer, it is just crazy to think that the potential for injuries can’t be greatly reduced. Kids will be kids; running, jumping, pushing, etc … and that is exactly how we should all want them to be. We’re making them grow up way too fast.”

Mark T Freeley, Esq, North Shore Injury Lawyer:

“I am a personal injury lawyer on Long Island, NY, and I became involved in wired glass litigation in 2009. At that time my neighbor’s son was severely injured by coming into contact with wired glass in a stairwell of our local high school. During the pendency of the litigation, the following unbelievable facts came to light. In March 2006, nearly 3 full years before my client’s accident, the New York State Education Dept., Office of Facilities Planning issued Newsletter #73. This Newsletter was displayed on their website for months and was sent via e-mail to our local school district, and our district admitted receiving it prior to my client’s accident. This Newsletter warned of the dangers of wired glass. In set forth, ” This is an important advisory concerning the use of wire glass in schools.” It warned that “…there is a common misconception that wire glass is impact resistant. This is not true, and in fact wire glass is only half as strong as regular plate glass.” It warned of the serious injuries that are inflicted by wire glass, and advised of several fire rated impact resistant glazing options and urged schools to research the options. It set forth ” Now for the difficult part, what do we do with the existing wire glass installations? We strongly recommend that all existing wire glass locations be evaluated for potential impact and injury.” Despite the strong wording of this newsletter, the school district attorneys argued to the court that they were merely “aspirational in nature”, and did not impose any duty upon the schools to replace existing wire glass…”  [There is much more information about this case in the complete comment.]

Now the question is, how do we inspire change?  Any ideas?

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14 Responses to “WW: Are the kids to blame?”

  1. J. Peter Jordan says:

    I am going to go out on a limb here and advocate for wire glass in certain very limited areas. Vision lites of 100 sq. in. or less in fire-rated doors where the bottom of the lite is located more than 48 inches above the floor or where the horizontal dimension is 4 inches or less and the bottom of the lite is located more than 36 inches above the floor. Door lites or borrowed lites that are larger should be safety glazing (tempered or laminated), fire-rated where required.

    I do agree that wire glass is dangerous, and there have been caveats on its use since I began writing specifications in the late 1970s. Until fire-rated glazing products were introduced in the 1990s, there weren’t any options. However, from what I have seen, most injuries from wired glass installations have been from the larger lites (most of these would be in the 900 to 1200 sq. in. range) located where safety glazing is manditory. In many schools, this location is also where fire-resistive glazing is required.

    I strongly believe that kids will be kids and that this should be a part of the architectural program. We put wall and column cushion matts around the gym because we know kids will run into them. We do the same thing at the NBA level; does that mean that we believe NBA players will act irresponsibly? When I was a teenager and participating in Boy Scouts (a loonngg time ago), we were playing a game which was supervised. One of the boys ran his hand through a lite on the door into the “scout hut.” The lite was probably smaller than 8 by 10 inches, but it was glazed with 3/16-inch DSB glass. He was cut and there was a lot of

    • Lori says:

      Hi Peter –

      I agree that the glass you described is less dangerous, but if the glass is adjacent to the hardware (particularly panic hardware), there is still a risk of impact. In the article that was recently published in Doors and Hardware (, I listed the locations from most hazardous to least:

      1) Athletic facilities, gymnasiums, basketball courts
      2) Doors and sidelites which are not fire rated – traditional wired glass has not been allowed by code in these locations for decades.
      3) Doors where the glass is behind or directly adjacent to the hardware, where impact is likely – especially high traffic doors with door closers.
      4) Sidelites and large windows.
      5) Fire doors with smaller glass lites not adjacent to the hardware. These locations carry the lowest risk of injury.

      The glass at the top of the list should obviously be dealt with first, but once facilities start taking a good hard look at this they may decide that applying film or replacing all of the wired glass is the safest course of action.

      I would love to educate more architects and specifiers about this. Maybe Construction Specifier will let me publish an article on the subject.

    • Greg Abel says:


      As you know the building codes have always addressed glazing in doors or sidelites to meet impact safety requirements regardless of size. The only exception to the rule was for “polished wire glass” and only when used in a fire door assembly, including the sidelite. Even then, the panel size was limited to 1296 square inches with a maximum dimension of 54”. These are the very panels we are now talking about as the unsafe panels in our older schools. If you find panels of wire glass larger than 1296 sq. inches in a hazardous location (an area subject to human impact) you might want to question if the panel is there for fire purposes (remember 1296 sq. inches is the maximum size allowed by code) or is the panel used in a non-hazardous location as a common relite (used to gain natural lighting into the space). One would also have needed to know the level of fire protection the code required in these locations i.e.; 20, 45, 60 or 90 minutes as panel sizes were additionally restricted beyond 45 minutes.

      As a matter of fact, if you were to try and buy a panel of wire glass today for use in a door assembly most distributors would only provide you with a labeled safety version of wire glass. In addition, it takes months if not years to make changes in our building codes and many months after for such a change to be adopted by various jurisdictions. Keep in mind that these code changes really address “new” construction. The real question should be what’s to be done about the thousands of panels of wire glass installed prior to the current building code change. These are the very panels we need to correct with modification or total replacement before additional injuries occur. If you look at existing doors containing the wire glass you’ll find that the majority of these panels already fall in the size of less than 1000 square inches.

      In the case of this product “SIZE” does not matter…….IT”S UNSAFE!!

      Greg Abel – Chair Advocates For Safe Glass

  2. Chuck says:

    “Now the question is, how do we inspire change? Any ideas?”

    Well, it seems the schools are reluctant to tackle this on their own, even though, as Mark stated, the NYS Education Dept sent notice of the dangers of wired glass to schools and posted on it’s website.

    It looks like only litigation and rising insurance costs will be the impetus for change, as was mentioned in a few of the posts above. Pretty sad that the schools ignore the safety of the children in order to save a little money.

  3. Brad Keyes says:


    I would like to know what dumb things you did when you were a kid!

      • Lori says:

        I think you all know enough about me! When I was introduced for my class yesterday, the person introducing me said that she had looked on the internet to find out about me. Oh dear. But then she said that what she learned by doing that was that she couldn’t tell the attendees about all that I had done for the industry because then we wouldn’t have time for the class. I was so touched!

    • Lori says:

      There are too many to list!

  4. Jack Ostergaard says:

    Has anyone else noticed the amount of wired glass on television? As my awareness has risen I can’t help spotting it. Every crime drama – it seems that police stations are filled with it, offices, jails, interview rooms. And medical shows – operating room doors, ER desks. Where are they filming? They need to stop showing it as the “norm”. If the anti wire glass groups get Hollywood on board amazing change can take place. To take one step further – a fictionalized legal case, a fictionalized medical drama. If parents become aware of the danger in their schools and become the squeaky wheel, action is possible.

    • Lori says:

      They show it on TV as the norm because it is the norm. I love the idea of a fictionalized medical/legal drama…who has connections in Hollywood??

  5. Safecrackin Sammy says:

    “How do we inspire change?”

    Multi pronged attack is the way to go. [pincher movement]

    “Everybody lives somewhere” I learned early in life….
    Start with the local PTA… The parents of the students just might be lawyers, legislators, etc. that can help influence change with the local school board once they are aware of the issue.

    Keep in mind these are ELECTED officials….

    1K focused, screaming, soccer Moms will NOT go unnoticed once they understand the danger to thier kids.

    Lobby your local, state, federal officials..
    All schools get funding from these sources.

    The key to success here is to work towards a mandate that a portion of new funds must be allocated specifically to the replacement of wired glass until it is gone.

    Find out who carries the insurance policy for the school district. [its public info] See if they can incentivize the schools to replace exisiting glass with reduced premiums.

    Its litle steps towards the goal.

    • Lori says:

      I agree that getting the PTOs involved will have an impact. I am a member of our school’s PTO and I will think about what information to provide and how to make it go viral.

  6. Len Brunette says:

    Lori, thank you asking “how do we inspire change”
    While we have some data regarding the number of horrific injuries that occur each year, this information seldom reaches the general public. Just ask your friends or neighbors if they have ever heard of any serious glass injuries to children while attending school. Chances are they have not. When I first started inquiring about these types of glass injuries I was amazed at the number of such injuries, yet many of the school districts, even those neighboring districts, were unaware of such injuries. In fact many of the people in charge of the school facilities were unaware that wire glass was not a safety glass. In fact, most when asked the question “why do you think this glass with the wire is used in locations such as doors and panels adjacent to doors” the answer most often given was “because it’s a safety or security glass because people can’t get through the wire in the glass”. This information regarding number of injuries, severity of the injury and potential legal costs to the school district is kept close by the school districts and the insurance companies. While we are aware of at least 2,500 such injuries each year as a result of glass, think about how many you’ve read about in your local newspaper. I for one don’t ever recall reading about such an injury, yet alone the resulting financial cost to the school district and the community not to mention the possible life altering result or scarring to the child from the injury. I believe that if the parents were made aware of the danger and potential life altering results from such glass injuries, pressure would be put on our school officials to correct the current situation and make the glass in our schools safe for our children and grand children to be around.
    I have been involved with fire protection and safety glazing for many years. My background includes installation of glass as a glazier, product development of the newer and improved fire and safety glass products, national sales manager for these products and CEO of North American facility which manufactured some of these products. These newer products became available here in North America during the mid 80’s and provide both fire protection and impact safety requirements.
    A number of years ago I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Greg Abel, founder of Advocates for Safe Glass. However the circumstances for our meeting were unfortunate as his son had recently been injured when his hand went through a piece of wire glass. Since then Greg and I have worked closely as members of the Americas Glass Association and on common issues regarding safet glazing.
    As a result of this common issue Safe Glass Solutions ( was formed by a group of individuals who have safety glazing as a common theme and have put together a means to identify glazing in hazardous locations which does not meet cose requirements and modify it to meet current building code standards. Members of Safe Glass Solutions include Mr. Donn Harter, Board Chairman, considered an expert in the field of glazing and Mr. Greg Abel, Director of Government Relations, also considered an expert regarding wire glass and safety glazing. The program offered by Safe Glass Solutions would allow facility managers and code officials to quickly identify and recognize the modified glass as now meeting building code requirements. When the modified glass panel is broken, it can then be replaced with a more current safety glazing product,
    Finally, this issue is not just a maatter of dollars and scents but an issue of providing the safest surroundings possible for our children while attending school. This includes the glazing within the facilities. It will continue to take the efforts of those like you and Mr. Greg Abel (Advocates for Safe Glass) to make these changes occur by making those in charge aware that they hold the safety and welfare of our most precipus lives in their hands. I do believe we have a means to make the facilities our children spend a majority of time in “SAFE”.

    Len Brunette
    President, Safe Glass Solutions

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