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Rutgers Study Calls for Mandatory Glass Standard

Prompted by a string of patient injuries caused by glass-top tables breaking, a trauma surgeon at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School recently completed a study that concluded more regulation of glass tabletops is needed to protect consumers.

Dr. Stephanie Bonne

Dr. Stephanie Bonne said she collected data on glass table-related injuries from 96 sample hospitals in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database.  Her team found 3,200 glass table-related injuries between 2009 and 2015, more than half of which involved broken tabletops.

Taking into account the almost 5,000 emergency care centers nationwide, Bonne and her team estimated there are about 13,800 injuries linked to glass-top tables breaking each year.

The group also looked closely at the 24 cases that the Rutgers Trauma Center treated between 2001 and 2016. They found half the patients injured internal organs, upper torso, abdomen or joints and required surgery. About 8 percent of the patients died within a month of their injury. Most of the severe injuries were suffered by children younger than 7 or adults in their early 20s.

In an interview published by HealthDay News (September 21, 2020), Bonne said the number and severity of injuries warrants a mandatory standard for glass tabletops. “We really wrote this as a call to action for the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” she told HealthDay News.

According to the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), glass tabletops currently are subject to ASTM International F2813, a voluntary standard that requires tempered glass in desk and table tops below 44 inches in height.

Tempered glass is considered four to five times stronger than non-tempered glass. “If it does break, it will shatter into little pieces that are less likely to cause injury or damage, compared to the sharp, elongated shattering we see with non-tempered glass,” explained Bill Perdue, AHFA vice president of regulatory affairs.

Bonne recommended a mandatory standard that requires manufacturers to disclose what type of glass is used in a furniture product and warning labels on any tables using non-tempered glass.

Her study, published in The American Journal of Surgery in July, described tables as “faulty” if the glass top broke into shards that caused injury. The catalyst for the breakage varied, Bonne told HealthDay News, and included children jumping from a sofa to a glass-top coffee table and tables collapsing when someone stood on them.

ASTM’s furniture safety subcommittee, F15.42, has oversight of ASTM F2813, which was last updated in July 2018. AHFA urges all its members to adhere to the standard.

“For those involved on the furniture safety subcommittee, this is a commonly-used standard,” Perdue said. “The Rutgers study may prompt review of the standard, but we have not heard from the CPSC on this issue.”