Industry Watch: Window Safety Week 2013

Rich Walker
March 4, 2013
COLUMN : Industry Watch | Codes & Standards

On average, 18 toddlers die annually by falling from windows, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. More than 98,000 children—an average of 14 per day—were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for windowfall-related injuries during the 1990-2008 time period, according to the most recent study on the subject. About 65 percent of those injuries involved children four years old and younger, according to the report, “Pediatric Injuries Attributable to Falls from Windows in the United States in 1990-2008,” published in 2011 by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. During the reported 19-year study period, the fatality statistic―averaging about 10 children per year―was considered unrealistically low because those who fell and died on site were not counted in the study.

Standards Offer Solutions
ASTM International developed and recently updated two standards covering window fall prevention devices:

  • F-2090-10, Standard Specification for Window Fall Prevention Devices With Emergency Escape (Egress) Release Mechanisms
  • F 2006-10, Standard Safety Specification for Window Fall Prevention Devices for Non-Emergency Escape (Egress) and Rescue (Ingress) Windows.

F-2090 identifies general requirements for window-fall prevention screens and fall-prevention window guard devices. In addition, the standard contains general requirements for Window Opening Control Devices. WOCDs prohibit the free passage of a 4-inch diameter rigid sphere at the lowest portion of the window opening during normal operation of the sash. They incorporate a release mechanism that allows the sash to be raised higher to meet emergency escape and rescue requirements.

Making it the Law
In 1976, the New York City Board of Health passed a law requiring owners of multi-story dwellings to provide window guards in apartments where children 10 years and younger reside. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the program worked, resulting in a 35 percent reduction in deaths attributable to falls from windows and a 50 percent reduction in incidents; no child fell from a window equipped with a window guard. There was a reduction of up to 96 percent in admissions to local hospitals for window-fall-related injuries.

Clearly, fall prevention devices work. But efforts to minimize the risk of window falls must not impede escape or rescue, and result in an unacceptable life-safety tradeoff. Encouragingly, the AAP says that recent data showed no increase in the number of deaths attributable to residential fires in New York City (there was actually a decrease) after the introduction of window guards as required by city ordinance.

Education and Window Safety Week
The tools are in place, but as recent statistics show, the challenge of awareness and education still exists. In 2000, the National Safety Council’s Window Safety Task Force— which includes representatives from AAMA, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association and the Screen Manufacturers Association—inaugurated an annual National Window Safety Week, identified as the first full week in April, when spring’s arrival fosters a natural desire to open windows and let in fresh air. This year, Window Safety Week is April 7-13, 2013.

The educational focal points of Window Safety Week are three:

  • Don’t rely on insect screens to prevent a fall; they are not designed to, nor will they, prevent a child’s fall.
  • Supervise children as they play. Since supervising parents can often be distracted with household chores such as meal preparation, it’s essential to teach children to play away from windows, doors and balconies.
  • Increase awareness of the basic preventive measures, such as ASTM F2090-compliant guards and stops, furniture placement, etc. For windows on the sixth floor and below, install window guards with release mechanisms that adults and older children can open easily in case of fire.

For details of all recommended measures, as well as access to public educational materials, visit the Window Safety Week home page. Window manufacturers might want to provide these free resources to their customers (builders, dealers and remodelers) for use with consumers as a public service.

Rich Walker is president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, 847/303-5664, rwalker@aamanet.org.