SAFETY FIRST Why safety devices need to be tested regularly

Techtalk | Straff Cooke, Technical Director, Mila

I think Mike Derham, Chairman of Mighton Products, has been doing a great job highlighting the lack of a coherent campaign in the UK to prevent young children falling from windows.

He has pointed out that, in the US, there is an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standard which helps prevents falls, educates carers about window safety and defines standards for safety devices, but that nothing directly comparable exists over here.

That could partly explain why, according to the latest figures published by RoSPA, there are still around 4000 children under 15 being injured every year in the UK as a result of falling from windows. Mila in the UK and Ireland has had a successful trading relationship with Mighton for more than 10 years, and we’re fully behind Mike’s campaign.

It is probably fair to say that there is already plenty of legislation in the UK governing the specification and performance of safety devices, but I don’t think it is being communicated adequately – either to the trade market responsible for choosing and fitting the products, or to the public who they are designed to protect.

As things stand at the moment, within the Building Regs (Approved Document K, Section 8), the stated requirement is as follows: ‘Where a person may fall through a window above ground floor level, provide suitable opening limiters to restrain the window sufficiently to prevent such falls, or guarding’.

The guarding requirement applies to openable low level windows less than 800mm above the internal floor level because of the risk of toppling out if the restrictor was manually released.

However, whilst the Building Regs dictate that a restrictor which limits the opening to less than 100mm should be used in most other circumstances, it does not set out the type or performance characteristics.

For that, the relevant legislation which affects fabricators is BS14351-1 2006. Clause 4.8 within this window performance standard covers the load bearing capacity of safety devices, and this of course is also one of the three mandatory essential characteristics required for CE marking in the hardware sector.

Anyone who is fitting restrictor devices needs to obtain test evidence from their supplier to confirm that the restrictor has been tested at a UKAS accredited test centre to meet the requirements of the test detailed in BS EN 14609:2004, BS EN 948:1999, or by calculation.

Previously, this test used to involve load forces of 600N being applied with a direct push at the face of the window but, in recent years, it has been updated to forces of 350N (around 35kg) applied directly at the window’s most vulnerable position to make it more demanding on the restrictors being fitted.

You’ll be aware if you have read some of my previous Tech Talks that I’m not a lover of approving products by means of calculations, cascading and definitely not by desk top studies, so at Mila we always try to show compliance by actually conducting physical tests.

As you would expect, Mila has a comprehensive range of safety devices available which meet all of the relevant legislation – from Ideal standard and enhanced restrictor catches and restrictor arms, right through to ProLinea cable restrictors and of course friction hinges with integral restrictors.

What is especially important to us is that we are able to guarantee our customers that the safety devices we supply are regularly and routinely tested. As I have said in this column before, it is not enough just to test a product once at the point of launch. To give customers complete peace of mind, you need to test that product again and again to ensure that it continues to meet the standards required.

Mila already tests samples of our products every time a new batch is delivered at our own Mila Test Centre to establish a robust audit trail but, moving forward, we will also be testing all of our safety devices every year at an independent UKAS accredited test centre. We’re putting safety first, and we’re urging the rest of the industry to do the same.

As always, you can contact me for more information via: scooke@mila.co.uk or via Twitter: @StraffordCooke