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Push to Remove Old School Wired Glass in Canada

Imagine it’s your child’s first day back at school. In the excitement to see friends at lunch, he runs down the stairs and throws open the cafeteria door. But instead of pushing on the metal bar, he pushes on the wired glass. The glass is old and gives way. His arm shoots right through.

As the pane breaks, the wires hold together the exposed shards of glass. Their jagged edges and some broken glass injure your child’s arm.  

A real risk

While the above scenario might seem extreme, it’s similar to what Sean Lloyd, a student at Assumption Catholic Secondary School in Burlington, Ontario, experienced last year . And it’s not an isolated incident. With outdated safety glass regulations, students across Canada have suffered similar injuries from wired glass. Thankfully, to the benefit of all students, his efforts to raise awareness are now a catalyst for revising the country’s national safety glass standards. 

Why the rules need to change

When fire codes were first drafted, traditional wired glass was the only glazing material that could offer adequate fire protection. To be clear, it has a proven track record of being a dependable fire-rated glazing material that has served countless buildings well for many decades. During a fire, the wire mesh helps hold together broken glass to slow the spread of flames and smoke. 

So, when high traffic areas called for a fire rating, wired glass was granted an exemption from meeting higher impact safety requirements. At the time, there simply wasn’t a fire-rated glazing material that also provided high levels of impact safety. 

The good news is choosing fire safety over impact safety is no longer a tradeoff building and design professionals need to take. There are a number of specialized glazing materials that provide superior fire and impact protection, and they are clear and wireless for better safety and aesthetics.

What are the alternatives?

Today, alternatives to traditional wired glass for fire-rated glazing applications requiring high-impact safety include: 

  • Fire-rated glass ceramics: Clear, wireless glass that defends against flames and smoke. Depending on the product make-up, fire-rated glass ceramics can provide high levels of impact safety, ensuring the glass either does not shatter or shatters in a safe manner when withstanding impact comparable to a full-grown, fast-moving adult.
  • Intumescent fire-rated glass: A clear, multi-laminate product that is tested to ASTM E-119 and UL 263, which is the fire resistance standards for walls. It carries fire ratings up to 120 minutes, blocks significant amounts of heat during a fire and provides high levels of impact safety.
  • Wired fire-rated glass with a safety-film : Traditional wired glass with an advanced, fire-rated surface-applied film. The factory applied film can help provide the necessary fire and impact safety protection, but can be more susceptible to surface damage. As such, it’s important to verify whether the surface-applied coating is appropriate for long term use in the intended application, such as schools.

The coming changes

Given the availability of numerous products that meet both fire and impact safety needs, you can expect the Canadian General Standards Board and other advocates to continue working to revise the national safety glass standards. According to Pierre-Alain Bujold of Public Works and Government Services Canada in a June 2014 USGlass article, The committee determined that in the future, wired glass in Canada should only be used in non-hazardous situations due to the manner in which wired glass fails.”  

At a minimum, this likely means the board will require all fire-rated glass in hazardous locations to meet higher impact safety requirements, as has been done in the United States . To get on board with the coming changes and learn more about alternatives to traditional wired glass options available in Canada, contact your supplier.