Tempered glass may cut risk of shower accidents

Tempered glass may cut risk of shower accidents

Tempered and laminated glass is the safest option for shower screens, said glass suppliers after a freak accident on Sunday that left a man dead.

But because it is pricier and heavier than other types of glass, it is also less popular, they added.

Chinese evening newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported on Monday that Mr Sebastian Wong, 24, died after he was apparently cut in the throat by broken glass from a shower screen.

He is believed to have slipped and fallen against the cubicle door while taking a shower in the flat where his girlfriend lives.

To avoid sharp shards, tempered and laminated glass is the best option, said glass suppliers.

Tempered glass is about four times stronger than normal glass, and as the laminate holds two layers of glass together, it prevents glass shards from scattering if the pane breaks, said Singapore Safety Glass business development manager Gary Lee.

But this safer option is also pricier, said Glass Point Construction managing director Simon Goh. A shower screen of tempered glass costs $450 to $600, while one of tempered and laminated glass could exceed $1,000.

As a glass supplier, he sees more demand for simple tempered glass. "Nowadays, it's a price war, so contractors normally don't recommend tempered and laminated glass to their clients."

Laminated glass is also heavier and thus less suitable for bathrooms, said Mr Derrick Seah of interior design firm Design Style Group. It is often used outdoors instead, such as in balconies or for shopfronts.

Still, even non-laminated tempered glass should have been able to prevent Sunday's accident, said glass suppliers, who reckon the glass was of low quality or had not been tempered.

"With tempered glass, you should not get sharp edges," said Mr Ryles Kee, manager of Yuen Mai Glass Merchant, who noted that tempering changes the internal structure of glass so it breaks into rounded chunks.

"As a responsible contractor, you should encourage clients to use tempered glass. I would say it is the bare minimum for shower doors."

The shower screen involved in Sunday's incident was not a Housing Board fixture and had been installed afterwards.

But for a brief time, some HDB homes did come with glass shower screens, starting in 1999. By 2002, about 30,000 had been installed, but there were also 58 reported cases of breakage. The HDB stopped providing glass shower screens by 2003.

"This allowed flat owners the flexibility to install shower screens that best suited their personal preferences and lifestyle needs," said an HDB spokesman.

janiceh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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