Girl dies after crashing through glass table

Consumer Reports News: December 15, 2008 04:24 PM

Tragic accident reminds us of the lack of safety standards

Last week, an 11-year-old Providence, R.I. girl died after falling or jumping on a glass coffee table. A severe puncture wound to her leg caused her to bleed to death.

Each year an estimated 20,000 people, most of them children, are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from glass furniture. In an average year, three children die. The injuries can turn critical in moments. These grim statistics prompted Consumers Union to make a presentation to ASTM-International in late 2005 recommending that a safety standard be developed to address the hazard posed by glass in furniture. Three years later, a standard is currently under development.

This issue has escaped the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an agency that could easily fix this problem. A requirement to use tempered glass in furniture would virtually eliminate all serious laceration injuries. The CPSC currently requires the use of safety glass in shower doors and storm doors, but not glass tables.

Some furniture manufacturers already use tempered glass for tables. It’s hard to distinguish tempered glass from regular, annealed glass until it breaks. As the accompanying video shows, tempered glass shatters into small pieces, whereas annealed glass breaks into large, deadly shards.

If you are shopping for a glass table, we suggest that you consider only those with safety glass. If you are not sure of the glass type, ask the retailer or manufacturer. And if you have young kids, remove any glass tables from the areas where they spend time. Or do what I did—remove the glass insert and replace it with an unbreakable material such as plywood or hardboard. It may not be as stylish but it could save your child from a serious injury.—Don Mays

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