Wire Glass: The Hidden Danger in our Schools

We need dangerous Wire Glass out of our schools for the safety of our children.

By Mark T. Freeley, Esq. (Open Post)June 28, 2011 at 5:17pm

We have all seen the glass with wire in the middle in our schools growing up or in the schools that our children attend. We have walked by it and most likely never given it a thought. We probably think that the wire in the glass adds strength to the glass and that it's OK to push on it to open a door. However, wire glass is actually very dangerous, but unfortunately our schools are not being proactive in trying to eliminate this hazard. Wire glass was initially used when our schools were built as it was the only available product that would withstand the heat produced by fire and maintain its integrity. It was installed in all doors meant to be used as fire doors, to prevent the fire and smoke from traveling from one area of a school to another. It was used in practically all stairwell doors in our schools.

However, New York State's 2007 Building Code prohibits the use of wire glass in any new school construction and prohibits the use of wire glass in existing schools for replacement if broken. This is because the Building Code now requires all glass in impact areas in schools to be impact resistant, which means that wire glass is NOT impact resistant. In fact, the New York State Education Department issued an important advisory in 2006 to all schools concerning the use of wire glass in schools. According to the advisory, "It appears 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."

The State of Oregon was the first to change its code following an accident in a school where a student suffered severe nerve damage from broken wire glass. The metal itself is very sharp and holds the broken glass shards together, which tends to cause serious injuries when broken by contact with a child.

The advisory by New York State Education Department indicates that there are several fire-rated and impact resistant glass options available to be used by our schools. The advisory goes on to state, "We strongly recommend that all existing wire glass locations be evaluated for potential impact and injury. There are several alternatives available to remedy locations determined to be at risk, such as replacement with impact and fire resistant materials, coating the glass with specialty films and installing protective bars or railings."

It appears that our schools, despite being aware of the danger of wire glass since at least 2006, have chosen to do little or nothing to lessen the exposure of this risk to our children. Why not warn our kids with announcements over the PA system, hold student assembly meetings to educate our kids about the danger, post signs on the walls next to the doors with wire glass, install magnetic hold open devices to keep the doors open so they don't have to touch the doors which tend to be mostly made of glass, or replace the wire glass with the alternative impact resistant glass.

I know some people will think it's too expensive to replace all the wire glass in all of our schools, or we don't have the money in the budget, or our taxes are already too high. But one of the most important objectives in educating our kids has to be their safety while we educate them, no? We can warn and educate them as we steadily remove the wire glass and replace it with the available alternatives. Start with the main stairwells where our kids have the most daily exposure to this risk, then look to replace this dangerous glass in other hazardous locations. We don't need to immediately replace every single piece of wire glass in all of our schools, but the schools certainly have a responsibility to do something. Common sense should prevail so that the risk of a serious, life altering injury to one our kids is at least minimized. I don't think that is too much to ask from our schools, do you?