CROSS Safety Report
Collapse of glass balustrade from staircase in public building
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter investigated an incident where a glass balustrade panel fell vertically from a feature staircase in a public building.
Key Learning Outcomes
For construction professionals:
Quality assurance on site can help to ensure that glass balustrades are installed correctly and are not overlooked as a secondary element
Consider introducing a quality control procedure for the inspection of safety critical connections for glass balustrades to ensure they are installed as per the specification
For civil and structural design engineers:
Think about how safety critical fixings are designed and detailed to allow them to be easily inspected and maintained during operation
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Further to report 734 which discussed defective glass smoke screens, a reporter was reminded of the time when they investigated an incident where a glass balustrade panel fell vertically from a feature staircase in a public building. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
The installers had used a proprietary stainless steel and rubber bracket to connect the four corners of the glazed panel to the steel frame but must have omitted the locking pins which pass through the panel and instead were relying on clamping friction. The panel fell at night, presumably due to lower temperatures marginally reducing the volume of the rubber gasket.
The pin was not visible due to the construction of the bracket. Confusingly, similar looking brackets exist with a higher clamping force and no locking pin. Very much a secondary element which was on nobody's check or inspection list.
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This is an interesting report. On many other occasions CROSS has emphasised the general safety demand of periodic inspection adding that critical components ought to be inspectable. Structural failure has occurred where access was simply impossible (say to detect corrosion).
This report is an example illustrating what can happen when there is no quality assurance (QA) or quality control (QC) on installation and where in service (or post-installation) inspection is more or less impossible.
There have been numerous reports on failings of glass panels. You can search for safety information on glass panels on the CROSS website.