A number of safety and security issues need to be considered with regards to windows and doors.
While ordinary glass can break and present a safety hazard, the industry and government have worked together to significantly reduce any potential danger. For example, safety glazing is required by law in many applications. In the home, such requirements cover any glass in doors, as well as certain applications. A variety of safety glazing materials exist, including tempered glass, laminated glasses, and a variety of plastic glazing materials. These products are produced and tested to provide assurance that, if broken, the risk of injury or death is minimized.
Most patio and entry doors manufactured today utilize tempered glass, which is stronger than ordinary glass, and when it does break, it shatters into thousands of small pieces that less likely to produce severe cuts or lacerations that larger shards of glass. Another type of glass used in some applications is laminated glass. Using similar technology as your car's windshield, the glass, if broken, stays in tact, adhering to the plastic interlayer material. This also reduces the possibility for severe cuts.
For more information about safety glazing, visit the web site of the Safety Glazing Certification Council.
For years, the window, door, and screen industry has worked closely with the National Safety Council to educate the public about the dangers of children falling through windows.
The National Safety Council offers the following advice:
Be aware of the danger of falls from windows by unsupervised young children.
Keep your windows closed and locked when children are around. When opening windows for ventilation, open windows that a child cannot reach.
Set and enforce rules about keeping children's play away from windows or patio doors. Falling through the glass can be fatal or cause serious injury.
Keep furniture - or anything children can climb - away from windows. Children may use such objects as a climbing aid.
Never depend on an insect screen to keep your child from falling out of the window. Screens are intended to keep insects out, not children in.
Unguarded windows opened only five inches pose a danger to children under ten. In some cities, landlords are required by law to place window guards in apartments where children live; such guards prevent windows from being opened wide enough for a child to crawl through.
Be sure to check with your local fire department and building code official to make sure guards or security bars comply with all applicable requirements.
Following on the heels of Hurricane Andrew and other coastal storms, code requirements for windows and doors in many localities have become more stringent, requiring increased resistance to strong winds and, in some cases, impact-resistance. The glass in windows and doors designed to meet impact-resistant codes may break when subjected to impact by wind-blown debris, but is designed to stay in tact, reducing the risk of flying glass and minimizing further damage to the home or building.
Impact-resistant windows and doors most typically are constructed with laminated glass and stronger framing materials. In a growing number of communities along the East and Gulf Coasts, codes now require that new homes be constructed with impact-resistant windows and doors or shutters.
Impact-resistant products can also provide enhanced security. Any glass, when struck repeatedly with forceful blows, will shatter. No glass can prevent all intruders, but most of today's impact-resistant products stay in the frame when broken. This makes forced entry more difficult and time consuming, and can serve as an effective deterrent as most burglars will move on to an easier target.
Window and door manufacturers have taken other steps to offer enable their products to offer enhanced security over the years. Many exterior doors, for example, are offered with multipoint locking systems.