Since it was first introduced in 1997 by the US National Safety Council, the Window Safety Week is held during the first full week of April every year. While this may be done in the US, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have this in Malaysia, too.
Windows have many great uses in our homes and workplaces. They’re great for letting in natural light and fresh air, and keeping out external elements. In Malaysia where we have great weather, lots of sunlight, and rainfall all year round, windows are great for all these uses on top of the aesthetic role they play. On top of that, they can also function as emergency exits and escape windows if proper planning has been done.
With that said, proactive measures are needed to enhance your safety be it in your home or office. While there are many great things about windows, we should also play an active role in promoting window safety and not take it for granted. Here are some actions you can take to improve window safety in your home and workplace.
Create a Fire Escape Plan
When it comes to fire escape plans, most people do not have this at the forefront of their minds. Unfortunately, it is common to overlook the life-saving role windows play in the event of a fire or other emergencies. Back in 2017, 23 teenage boys became victims of a fire that broke out in their boarding school when they were trapped by the barred windows of their dormitory. According to this New Straits Times article, the door caught fire and the windows had metal bars on them, hindering their escape from the fire. In such a scenario, poor planning ended up costing lives.
This leads us to one of the steps we can all take to improve safety – creating a fire escape plan, even in our homes. In most workplaces, fire escape plans already exist but when it comes to homes, this is commonly overlooked.
- Start by identifying two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
- Ensure the selected windows and doors are accessible. If they are locked, keep the key in a nearby location.
- For households with children, consider drawing a floor plan and marking each of these fire escape points.
While some may have a ”what are the chances of this happening to me?” attitude, we should be aware of how frequently fires have happened. In a 2015 study by the Malaysian Journal of Forensic Science, 33,640 fires were reported all over the country in the year 2013. That just shows fires are far more common than most would think they are
Prevent Falls from Windows
Another common safety issue when it comes to windows would be preventing falls from windows. This is especially worrying for households with children in their home. In fact, the American National Safety Council labels windows as one of the top hidden hazards in any home. This shows how common it is for windows to be overlooked when it comes to safety.
Here are some steps adults can take to mitigate this issue:
Do not leave children unattended around open windows. Young children may not be aware of the dangers so windows within their reach should be kept closed and locked.
Only open windows that are out of children’s reach
When opening windows for ventilation. Even if there are insect screens on the windows, do not rely on these screens to prevent falls from windows as they are made to keep insects out, and may not be able to bear the weight of children.
Avoid placing furniture under windows.
Keep the area under windows as empty as possible to prevent children from climbing and reaching the windows.
Install window fall prevention devices
Such as window safety catches and release and restrict arms that can prevent falls from windows. These inexpensive accessories can limit how far a window can open but are also equipped with release devices to allow for escape in the event of an emergency.
These steps may seem simple but they could prevent unwanted accidents from happening.
Regularly Inspect and Maintain
While fires and falls are some of the more major safety concerns, there is also the possibility of windows themselves becoming a hazard. With wear and tear, there is a possibility of window parts or even the windows themselves becoming loose and falling from buildings. Regular inspection and maintenance could minimise this risk.
As windows do face the outside world and take on the elements, the condition of windows will inevitably deteriorate over time. This could happen when finishes fail, sealants lose flexibility, components rot or corrode, insects bore into wood and movable parts deflect or corrode. If no action is taken, windows will eventually become damaged and require complete replacement.
Regular inspection and maintenance can help mitigate this and prolong the lifespan of windows. Before window parts or windows themselves become loose and fall from their place, simple checks and small fixes could be the simple solution to prevent the undesirable from happening.