Unfortunately, there have been a number of accidents in family homes causing serious injury and even death due to incorrect types of glass installed. Although traumatic for the victim, it is also an issue for the owner of the property when it is leased to tenants.
Houses constructed before the mid 1970’s often used annealed glass, which is also known as plate or sheet glass. If this type of glass breaks, it fractures into sharp jagged pieces. Usually it is a perfectly satisfactory material for most uses, except where there is a risk of human-impact breakage, particularly in bathrooms where the incidents of slips and falls are highest, and where toughened glass should be used. The benefit of toughened glass is that when it breaks, it implodes resulting in small blunt cube-like granules that are far safer than when other glass types break.
The risk of glass implosion of shower screens and doors can be reduced by keeping the glass and other hardware, such as hinges, clean and dried after every use. This will help prevent the build-up of mineral deposits which cause implosion. To prevent possible litigation, property owners who intend to rent out their properties may be wise to ensure that the glass conforms to current Australian Standards.
Glass problems also commonly occur in domestic shower screens or windows where household chemicals, scum, salt, road grime, dust or other pollutants become etched into the glass. The glass becomes cloudy and milky, but when it is wet appears to be clean again.
Regular and thorough cleaning can help prevent the occurrence of this problem. Other suggested remedies include using goanna oil or sweet almond oil which will prevent the problem for a period.
The installation of glass in domestic homes is covered by Australian Standards AS/NZS 1288 and AS/NZS 2208, covering installation, safety and test requirements. For glass shower screens and doors, higher strength glass must be installed. You should check if there is any labelling on the glass to determine its thickness and suitability. A glazier can advise if the glazing installed in your home is suitable as the changes made to the Australian Standards have increased the Standards for glazing in Australia to bring it in line with the rest of the world.
There can sometimes be a failure of toughened glass in high-rise buildings because of traces of nickel sulphide in the glass due to the manufacturing process. The glass fractures and may fall out depending on how it is installed. This has recently been addressed in the Building Code of Australia, with additional safety requirements; however, these occurrences have been extremely rare and are not problematic in ordinary annealed glass in domestic applications.
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