Construction work is dangerous, particularly for workers on site. However, the same thought must be taken for those using the building once it is complete. From electrical and gas provision to the products selected for installation, safety should be considered throughout the entire process. Here, Nick Cowley, managing director of PVCu windows and doors manufacturer Euramax, explains what to consider when selecting fenestration products and why safety is key.
The safety of workers and the working environment is crucial to any construction project, but what about the people the project is being built for?
The UK Building Regulations ‘Part M: Access to and use of buildings’ and ‘Part N: Glazing - Safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning’ are mandatory rules already in place for windows and doors. However, there are other safety concerns for consideration, such as fire and glass safety.
Therefore, it’s important to understand what’s required to ensure highly safe windows and doors and how they can increase the safety of a building. Amongst these factors, installing products that are British Standards Institution (BSI) kitemarked will further assure safety. The BSI kitemark tests fenestration products above the minimum legal requirements for security, quality and safety.
Fire safe doors
When it comes to choosing a door that can enhance safety, composite doors are an increasingly popular option due to the material’s strength and durability.
Composite materials are made from a variety of constituent substances with different physical of chemical properties, which, when combined, produce a new material with individual characteristics. Composite materials can include PVCu, fibreglass and wood.
The safety benefits of composite materials don’t stop high strength and durability, as composite doors can be designed to contain and withstand fire too.
For example, composite fire doors differ to standard doors as the fireproof core is made from a combination of stronger, yet lighter weight fire-resistant materials. On the other hand, composite fire doors can also be fitted with fire-resistant glass and seals around the door that swell in extreme temperatures, making it difficult for smoke to pass through and ultimately reducing the risk of harm from smoke inhalation.
Dependent on the project, buildings may sometimes require specialised styles of windows. For instance, fixed pane windows are often used in high rise buildings, such as flats and offices.
When selecting windows for high rise buildings, re-glazing, cleaning and maintenance must all be considered. However, above all else, safety is paramount. Fixed windows are windows that do not open at all, which significantly helps to reduce the risk of injury or death. If someone working in a high-rise office building tried to open or close a window, for instance, there is risk of injury if they have to lean out to reach the window handle.
Similarly, tower blocks in schools require fixed windows to eliminate the chance of children falling and injuring themselves. Whereas modular classrooms have windows with restricted functionality, meaning that the windows only open to a certain angle — further reducing safety risks.
Ensuring that the windows you choose are also fitted with safety glass will provide an extra level of safety. Toughened or tempered glass, which is the term used for glass that has been heated to more than 600 degrees then rapidly cooled during production, is up to five times stronger than normal glass.
With increased strength, toughened glass is harder to break. However, if it is broken, it shatters into tiny pieces, in comparison to larger, sharper shards when regular glass is broken. This ultimately reduces the chance of injury to anyone in proximity of the broken glass.
Using a leading manufacturer, such as Euramax, which supply a range of windows installed with 28mm toughened safety glass, ensures that safety is increased for the people who use the windows, as well as project workers handling them during installation.
It’s important to achieve a high standard for your clients, both structurally and aesthetically, but ensuring that everyone’s safety is considered is equally important. Regardless of your role during a project, safety must be addressed at every stage. So, before selecting the windows and doors for your project, research and select the products that will ensure both you, and your customer, will have peace of mind knowing that safety comes first.