Guest Blog: It’s Time to Talk Safety

April 3rd, 2012 by DWM Magazine

As the weather gets warmer, our minds not only turn toward the industry’s busy season, but also toward spring cleaning, playing golf, barbecues, graduation parties and family vacations. Without a doubt, we are ready to put on shorts, open the windows and finally let in some fresh air.

But, as the windows open, so does the opportunity for accidents to happen. Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that about 3,300 children, five years old and younger, are treated each year in the United States for window falls. And, according to another study by the American Academy of Pediatrics published in 2011, the greatest number of emergency room visits due to window falls occur between April and September each year.

As members of the door and window industry, we have a unique opportunity to advocate for window safety and to remind our customers, and sometimes our customers’ customers, of best practices to prevent falls.

After all, there’s no better time to talk about safety than right now.

Education Leads to Prevention

We always have a plan before giving in-home presentations about replacement windows. We might cover important topics, such as energy efficiency, durability, aesthetics, energy codes and condensation resistance. But also consider adding a few words about window safety while you have a captive audience, especially if there are small children in the home. Not only will homeowners appreciate that you care, but you might also have a hand in preventing an accident.

The National Safety Council (NSC) formed the Window Safety Task Force in 1997, which is made up of volunteer representatives from the window, door and screen manufacturing industries, as well as associations, such as the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Window and Door Manufacturers Association, Screen Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Homebuilders. The purpose of the task force is to provide educational information resources and tips to prevent the risk of window falls and to remind us all about the role doors and windows play in fire safety.

To help you talk to your customers about safety, the NSC publishes a variety of materials that are available for download on its website. Here are just a few Window Safety Tips provided by the organization:

• Keep windows closed and locked when not in use for ventilation;

• Avoid placing furniture that young children can climb on near windows;

• Do not lean on screens or rely on them to prevent a window fall – insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in the home;

• Supervise children to prevent them from playing near windows, balconies or patio doors;

• Install building code-compliant devices such as window guards (with quick-release mechanisms in case of fire); and

• Create soft landing surfaces (i.e., bushes or plant beds) to help prevent serious injuries in case of a fall.

Of course, the best way to prevent falls and injuries is to watch children as they play. There’s no substitute for careful supervision.

Windows can also be a secondary means of escape from a fire, so teaching children proper use of windows during emergencies can also save lives. Urge your customers to have a rehearsed plan in place and, when performing spring repairs, they should make sure windows open smoothly and are not painted or nailed shut.

Mark your Calendars

Window safety should be top-of-mind year-round, but the spring time is a great time to be reminded that screens are meant to keep bugs out, not children in. Mark your calendars for the first full week in April each year – a week the National Safety Council has set aside as National Window Safety Week. Use this time to brush up on safety and to give your sales teams the tools they need to broach this subject with homeowners.

Your participation and commitment to educating your customers about window safety can save lives. And, you can enjoy your barbecues and rounds of golf knowing that you have done your part. Have a safe, happy and prosperous summer season.

Jeff Sawyers is the director of product development for Quanex Building Products, focusing primarily on engineered components. He is a 20-year veteran of the fenestration industry and currently serves as vice president of the Screen Manufacturers Association (SMA).

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