About twice a year, I receive a question from an architect regarding safety glazing. Where is it required? Can I provide a different type of glass? Is this manufacturer/model acceptable? Without fail, I always end up revisiting the International Building Code (IBC) to review the requirements before answering the question. So in an effort to save me (and hopefully you) time in the future, I have compiled a quick reference guide for safety glazing. All references are to the 2015 IBC.
Practically, safety glazing refers to glass panels or other materials that are manufactured to reduce the likelihood of breaking and to minimize the safety risk if the material does break. From a code compliance standpoint, safety glazing refers to any glazing that meets the requirements of IBC 2406.
Glass panes are the most common safety glazing material, but the IBC also recognizes plastic, glass block, and louvered windows as potential options. The IBC does not provide any requirements for the process used to manufacturer safety glazing, it only provides performance requirements. Therefore, both tempered and laminated glass assemblies can qualify as safety glazing, if they meet the IBC 2406 requirements.
IBC 2406.4 identifies 7 locations as hazardous locations that require safety glazing:
Additionally, glazing located in fire-protection rated or fire-resistance rated glazing installed in fire door and window assemblies is required to be safety glazing (IBC 718.104.22.168 and 716.6.3).
When safety glazing is required, the most common design option is manufactured glazing panels that are either laminated or tempered. Safety glazing panels are required to be tested to either CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or ANSI Z97.1 and must be identified through a label or other means of designation. There is an exception that allow forms of safety glazing other than tempered glass to not be labelled when approved by the AHJ.
When tempered glass is used, the glazing must be identified by a manufacture’rs designation that is, “acid etched, sand blasted, ceramic fired, laser etched, embossed, or of a type that once applied, cannot be removed without being destroyed.”
In retrofit applications, it may not be desirable to replace existing glazing with new safety glazing panels. There are various film products available that can be applied to existing glazing that will satisfy the code requirements for safety glazing. Some examples include products by 3M, Llumar and Gordon Glass.
If using this option, it’s important to determine who applies the label to the glazing once the film is applied. If the installing contractor is applying a label after the film is installed, check with the local authority to verify that this will be acceptable. Since the IBC has fairly stringent requirements on safety for identification of the safety glazing, some AHJs require a permanent label that is etched in to glass.
There are 7 distinct hazardous areas where the IBC requires safety glazing. Technically, any product that meets the requirements of IBC 2406 can be considered safety glazing, but the most common products are tempered and laminated glass. Be sure to verify that the product you select has been tested in accordance with CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or ANSI Z97.1