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CROSS Safety Report

Glass panel fixings failure

Report ID: 182 Published: 1 October 2010 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A local authority reports how a double-laminated glass panel measuring approximately 1mx1.5m fell from a first floor balcony, striking four people who were standing on the ground floor.

Key Learning Outcomes

For construction professionals:

  • Quality control and competent supervision 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:

  • Safety critical fixings should be designed and detailed to allow them to be easily inspected and maintained during operation, and easily replaced at the end of their lifespan if required

For all built environment professionals:

  • This is a good report as it shows the value of highlighting incidents and raising awareness to help prevent recurrence

  • Raising awareness is the first step in the process of bringing about improvements to industry guidance and practices

Full Report

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Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others. If you would like to know more, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.

This report is from a local authority and concerns the risks that can arise from glass panels. A double-laminated glass panel measuring approximately 1x1.5m was dislodged by a person on the first floor balcony of a nightclub. The panel fell approximately 5m before striking four people who were standing on the ground floor. One person sustained a serious injury.

Strengthening of glass panel fixings

During the course of their investigation into the accident, the local authority were advised of a nearly identical accident that occurred at another premises run by the same organisation some months before. The incident involved the same glass panel design.

Following these accidents, the glass panel fixings at both locations have been strengthened. The local authority were then advised by the suppliers that the glass panel design was used in only a small number of premises, and the local authorities in the regions where these were used were contacted.

Support of glass panels

The glass panels in question are supported in metal channels along the top and bottom, but the middle panels have no fixings along their vertical edges. This would appear to make them vulnerable if force is applied to the middle panels.

The same local authority reported that they had another serious incident involving glass panel designs a few years before. A glass panel was knocked out of its metal bracket fixings on a first floor staircase in a retail outlet. It fell edge first, narrowly missing customers walking under the staircase, before hitting and seriously damaging the floor.

Inspecting the integrity of glass panel fixings

As a result of these incidents, inspectors are checking the integrity of all glass panel fixings identified on upper floor balconies and staircases during site visits. The reporter encourages all other local authority enforcement officers to do likewise.

Expert Panel Comments

Find out more about the Expert Panels

Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

This is a good report as it shows the value of highlighting incidents to help prevent recurrence. It is also a reminder to designers (as with the ceiling failures previously reported in CROSS) that attention to detail on small units is just as important as carrying out complex structural analysis.

It appears here that there was a lack of the fundamental robustness which should be a feature of all structures.

Balustrades/barriers have a design requirement under BS 6399-1 Loading for buildings, and also under the corresponding Eurocode EN 1991-1-1. Reference can also be made to BS 6180 Barriers in and about buildings. The importance of checking that balustrades/barriers meet these requirements particularly in relation to framed panels is emphasised by considering the consequences of failure.

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