Putting Action on the Table

According to the article, there are more than 2.5 million injuries from glass tables each year.

About 15 years ago, I wrote in my column in USGlass magazine to warn about the dangers of non-safety glass used in furniture, particularly in glass table tops. After going through all the safety and moral reasons why safety glass should be necessary, I ended with a prediction. I predicted that it would not take long for an accident or high-profile event involving glass furniture to occur and bring negative and wide publicity to the industry. “Then,” I opined, “we will lose control of the dialogue and the solution to this problem in much the same way the safety glazing laws originally came about in the late ’70s and early 1980s.” They happened around us and it took years to get industry input and the consideration it deserved. Though it took a bit longer than expected, that prediction has now come true.

As you review USGNN™, the industry’s daily e-newspaper, you will see story after story about the study recently published in the American Journal of Surgery. In fact, we only included a few links but there are hundreds of them out there. The report, it seems, has the legs I predicted years ago.

What does the study say? It says that the breakage of glass tables and resulting injuries are a “public health issue avoidable with adequate regulatory measures” and further that “this is a public health issue which should be easily avoidable by adequate legislation and regulatory measures, but current guidelines are more suggestive than regulatory.”

The doctors and researchers are right about that. The standard we have now, ASTM F2813-18, Glass Used as a Horizontal Surface in Desks and Tables, was first published in 2012 and most recently updated in 2018, and is strictly voluntary. It is most likely followed by individuals and companies with moral compasses who understand why voluntary standards should be followed. Not everyone does.

Consider this conversation I had many years ago with an offshore furniture manufacturer who called to find out what standards his company needed follow to import his glass tables in the U.S. The ASTM Standard was in development at the time, and I explained it will soon be completed and published. “Is this something we must follow?” he asked. “Well, it’s something you will want to follow,” I countered, to which he replied. “We will follow any law we must, but that is all. It sounds like the standard you cite is optional.”

Well, it is optional of course, but it seems to be used only by those with a sense of morality who care about saving lives and reducing injuries. After all, safety comes with a cost and that cost is the difference between safety and non-safety glass.

What’s especially noteworthy about the study is that it is drawn from emergency room data and it concludes that the estimates of glass furniture injury by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are much lower that the reality of ER physicians. Consider these statistics from the study:

  • It estimates more than 2.5 million injuries from glass table tops in the U.S. alone;
  • 13,802 of those injuries were considered severe;
  • 3% of those injured die;
  • More than 54% of patients brought to trauma centers require inpatient care and/or operations.

The authors also note their disappointment to find out that there is a serious lack of regulation in the U.S. and that the CPSC does not have any requirements for the glass used in table tops. “The glass has strict requirements according to the furniture it is going to be used in the U.K.,” says the report. “In the U.S., however, there is no requirement for either manufacturing or marketing these tables. The manufacturers are not required to disclose the type of glass used in the glass table.”

The report goes on to cite the effect of such injuries on young children. It ends by advocating for public health initiatives and industry regulatory measures.

As I said in that column long ago, such regulation is the right thing to so. And we must do something or it will be done for us—and to us. With the public’s eye upon us, now is the time.