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Safety Glass in Commercial Spaces: Understanding Legal Requirements and Insurance Implications

By Darragh Timlin on March 7th, 2024

For businesses occupying commercial buildings, the choice of materials used in doors, windows, partitions and other glazed surfaces brings important legal compliance considerations along with impacts on insurance costs and liability risks. 

Safety glass standards exist to minimise harm from accidental human impact or damage from weather and crimes. Failing to utilise approved safety glass where building codes and other regulations mandate it can have consequences for building owners and tenants.

Overview of Safety Glass Regulations

Rules around using tempered, laminated or otherwise reinforced safety glass versus standard glass aim to increase occupant safety while reducing injuries and property claims. Is safety glass a legal requirement in all glazed building applications? Not universally, but safety glass is mandated broadly across commercial spaces.

Safety glass regulations stem from governmental bodies like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and industry groups publishing accepted standards. For example, the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT) provides widely referenced safety glazing guidelines. Such codes outline where and what types of safety glass are mandatory, including:

  • Glazed doors
  • Low window sills
  • Glass partitions
  • Structural glass balustrades
  • Overhead glazing

New buildings must integrate approved safety glass to receive occupancy certificates. For existing structures, upgrades to safety glass are also encouraged or required in many cases.

Key Benefits of Using Safety Glass

Beyond legal compliance, the benefits of safety glass further incentive its broad adoption:

Reduced injuries

Safety glass is designed to shatter into tiny, rounded chunks rather than large, sharp shards, which can badly cut occupants. This prevents severe cuts if breakage occurs.

Withstands impact

It is engineered to be 4 to 10 times stronger than standard glass before fracturing. This reduces breakages caused by people or objects striking the glass.

Fire resistance

Some safety glass types provide fire resistance, slowing the spread of flames. This allows extra evacuation time in a fire emergency.

Security

Materials like multilayer laminated glass are very difficult to breach, keeping out intruders much longer and reducing theft and vandalism risks. Many insurers mandate it for high-value goods display.

Weather resilience

Safety glass compliant with impact ratings proves extremely resilient against wind, hail and storm debris damage which readily shatters standard glass. This prevents costly glass replacement claims.

For occupant wellbeing and reducing property risks, experts advise upgrading to safety glass whenever glazing renovations occur.

How Safety Glass Affects Insurance

Insurers closely examine what glass materials are integrated during underwriting, with significant impacts on policy pricing and coverage terms. Key factors include:

  • Premium discounts – Using code-approved safety glass earns premium reductions in recognition of lower injury, weather damage and crime risks it brings the insurer compared to standard glass.
  • Claims history – Businesses insured after major glass breakage incidents may be required to install branded safety glass to continue qualifying for glazing cover.
  • Location risks – In weather-prone regions or high crime areas, insurers increasingly mandate safety glass to remain eligible for glass damage coverage under policies.

Regional Safety Standards

While the UK broadly aligned on safety glass regulations for commercial spaces, requirements do vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The devolved administrations enforce some unique building rules and governance around the safety standards in different regions.

Companies with multiple business locations across Britain should verify the specific regional safety codes applied to glazed assets by local authorities and make adjustments as necessary to achieve compliance. Consulting registered glazing professionals assists in aligning with distinct safety glass regulations.

Tips for Ensuring Compliance

Avoid risks of non-compliance fines or issues securing property insurance by following these best practices:

  • Review glazing specifications of your property to identify all standard glass slated for replacement with safety glass based on building codes or insurance requirements.
  • Consult qualified glazing contractors certified to advise on safety standards and reliably install approved safety glass materials.
  • Keep documentation of the safety glass integrated within premises to readily evidence conformity with regulations.
  • When renewing insurance policies, declare usage of code-compliant safety glass to benefit from applicable premium discounts.
  • If you are planning glazing repairs or renovations, make necessary upgrades to safety glass products to minimise future liability risks and claims down the line.

Protect Your Business with Brisco

While integrating approved safety glass requires some upfront investment, the long-term payoffs in risk reduction and insurance savings deliver an overwhelmingly positive cost-benefit outcome for most companies. 

Brisco Business offers dedicated glass insurance designed to indemnify commercial policyholders from costs associated with glass breakages across their premises. We understand the risks posed by using standard glass inappropriately and support customers transitioning to code-compliant safety glass installations where mandated. This reduces liability risks for companies and prevents unnecessary injuries and claims over time. Contact Brisco to evaluate your insurance needs and get expert guidance regarding safety glass usage for greater confidence and risk resilience.

Darragh Timlin

With over 25 years’ experience, Darragh is an expert in all things insurance. Starting his career in commercial property underwriting, Darragh has worked for a number of global insurers and is now Managing Director of Brisco Business, part of the wider Henry Seymour Group.

All articles by Darragh Timlin

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