Reports’ Standard Push Would Require Safety Glazing in Tabletops
The lack of a standard regulating the use of glass in tabletops
has led to numerous injuries in the United States, according to
the Consumers Union of the U.S., publishers of Consumer Reports
magazine. The publication says more than 15,000 people are injured
each year in accidents involving glass furniture. Don Mays, director
of product safety for Consumer Reports, says that statistic comes
from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data. Mays explained
the data is a result of a CPSC survey of hospitals across the country.
“The number is that of emergency room treatments per year,” said
Mays. “It does not include [those injured people] who treat themselves
Armed with this information, Consumer Reports decided to conduct
testing of glass tabletops. Mays said that in order to conduct the
testing, they purchased tables from mass retailers. They then, simply
“broke the glass tables,” said Mays. He explained that to do so
they slammed a heavy impact device onto the table. Some tables that
were tested contained annealed glass, others contained tempered
Mays said the large, jagged edges of broken annealed glass are
what can be dangerous and cause injury. And, according to Consumer
Reports, if a table is not labeled “safety glass” consumers should
not purchase it.
Addressing the fact that there is no industry standard for furniture
glass, Mays said they have made a proposal to ASTM to write one.
Drew Mayberry, president of Lenoir Mirror in Lenoir, N.C., said
he is surprised that there are no such standards. Yet if there were
a standard for furniture glass it would have minimal affect on domestic
producers since so many glass products for furniture are now imported.
He says thick glass has been coming in from offshore for years,
and the product quality is comparable to that of domestic producers.
“The proactive approach would be for domestic fabricators to establish
their own safety specifications without regulatory involvement,”
says Mayberry. “Unfortunately, that adds more expense to items that
are already being undersold by foreign competition. Ultimately,
the consumer or retailer (who is closest to the consumer) will drive
the decision as to what should be offered.”
“It’s [the proposal] in its infancy,” he said. “We are asking for
a performance/safety standard that requires tabletops to contain
safety or tempered glass.”
Some industry experts, however, don’t necessarily agree with Mays’
take on the matter. “There’s lots of glass used in furniture and
if you force everyone to have to use tempered glass it will probably
reduce the amount sold by about 75 percent,” said Bob Lawrence,
president of Craftsman Fabricated Glass in Houston, explaining that
tempered glass is more expensive than annealed.
Lawrence says the problem, most likely, isn’t so much that the
glass is not tempered, but that thinner annealed glass is being
used more and more.
“[Furniture] prices are going down because the glass is getting
thinner,” said Lawrence. “The thinner the glass the easier it is
Jeff Carpenter with Boltz, a furniture manufacturer that produces
numerous glass-topped products that also buys domestically-produced
glass, said his company has done little research into the types
of glass they use.
“The only research we’ve conducted was to find who could make/cut
glass to fit our specific sizes,” said Carpenter. “We use standard
[annealed] glass in all of our products unless a customer specifically
requests special glass and 99.9 percent of the time the request
is for a different size. We have had no complaints from any customer
concerning our glass.”
Bryan Carter is the president and owner of Memphis-based Glassical
Inc., Boltz’s glass supplier. He said a standard that would require
safety/tempered glass in tabletops would have a huge impact on the
“It would radically increase the cost, particularly the cost of
thick glass, and would significantly reposition glass as far as
the choices available,” said Carter. Like Lawrence, Carter pointed
out that the cost to temper glass is vast compared to annealing
“Small companies don’t typically have tempering ovens, and most
of the large companies that temper don’t do custom work. This [a
standard] could again push the whole industry offshore.” Carter
continued, “It could devastate the small guys since the cost of
custom tempering is outrageous.”
But what about the Consumer Reports 15,000-plus injury statistic?
Carter said he has more than 20 years in the business and before
owning his own company was responsible for a great deal of the furniture
glass produced by Binswanger. “And I have yet to meet anyone injured
by a tabletop,” he said.
And, according to Carter, there is a downside to tempered glass
as well. “It is very edge sensitive to breaking,” he said. “So if
you strike the edge the likelihood to break is much higher.”