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November/December 2009

Window safetyPreventing Window Falls

Laela’s Law, the first statewide window fall prevention legislation, references two ASTM standards

On June 16, 2006, Laela Shaugobay, then not quite 2 years old, climbed on a piece of furniture, pushed on an insect screen and fell from a fourth-floor apartment window in Franklin, Minn.

Laela was critically injured but survived the fall and has since fully recovered. However, statistics compiled by the National SAFE KIDS campaign indicate that Laela is one of approximately 4,700 children annually in the United States who require treatment following a fall from a window. According to these same statistics, about 18 children per year die from such falls.

Laela’s case inspired action, which resulted in the 2007 passage of a Minnesota state law setting standards for stronger child fall prevention screens and other window fall prevention devices. Laela’s Law, as it is now known, took effect in Minnesota on July 1 of this year.

Laela’s Law is the first statewide window fall prevention law in the United States, and it could become a model for other state and municipal legislation. The Minnesota law references two ASTM International standards, F2006, Safety Specification for Window Fall Prevention Devices for Non-Emergency Escape (Egress) and Rescue (Ingress) Windows, and F2090, Specification for Window Fall Prevention Devices With Emergency Escape (Egress) Release Mechanisms. Both standards were developed by Subcommittee F15.38 on Window Fall Prevention, part of ASTM International Committee F15 on Consumer Products.

Kathryn Coen, product safety engineer, product safety and liability prevention group, Andersen Corp., and current chair of Subcommittee F15.38, says that F2006 and F2090 can be used in legislation and in building codes, as well as by individual parents who can purchase devices that comply to the standards for their own homes. “F15.38 wants to educate adults on the importance of window safety, and our standards play an important role in this,” says Coen.

History of Subcommittee F15.38

Subcommittee F15.38 was formed in 1995 following a roundtable meeting and a report issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that found that children age 5 and younger account for a high percentage of window fall fatalities and injuries.

The first standard approved by the subcommittee, F2006, applies strictly to fall prevention devices that protect against potential falls by children age 5 and under through open windows not designated for emergency escape or rescue in installations more than 75 ft. (23 m) above ground level in multiple family dwellings. Windows at these heights are beyond the reach of rescue ladders currently in use.

With its second approved standard, F2090, Subcommittee F15.38 covers window fall prevention devices for windows situated up to 75 ft. (23 m) above ground. At this height level, windows do have emergency escape release mechanisms, which needed to be taken into account in the standard.

According to its introduction, F2090 addresses window fall prevention devices that protect against potential falls by children age 5 years and under through open windows. The standard covers a variety of currently available window fall prevention devices, including window opening control devices, window fall prevention screens and some types of window guards, all of which use different strategies to prevent children from falling through open windows.

ASTM F2090 covers the general requirements, installation instructions and performance tests for window fall prevention devices, which are defined in the standard as “any device intended to prevent a young child from passing or falling through an open window.” The definition goes on to note that such devices may be an integral part of a window or may be attached to the window, its frame or the area around the window after the window has been installed. F2090 also includes examples of safety information panels to be used within assembly/installation instructions.

Window Fall Prevention Devices

Three types of window fall prevention devices described in the F15.38 standards are:

  • Fall prevention window guard — Device designed to fit into or onto a window to prevent a child from passing or falling through an open window. Typically mounted on the interior frame of the window and includes side frames fastened to the sides of a window frame and a plurality of spaced-apart, transverse, tubular, width-adjustable crosspiece elements to form a grid pattern between the side supports to prevent passage of a child.
  • Window fall prevention screen — Screen device designed to fit into or onto a window to prevent a child from passing or falling through an open window. Typically mounted on the exterior surface/frame of a sliding style window and on the interior of a cranking style window and includes screening mesh or material and attachment mechanism(s) of sufficient strength to meet the performance requirements of this standard while preventing passage of a child.
  • Window opening control device — Device that limits a window sash to be opened with normal operation of the sash such as to prohibit the free passage of a 4-in. (102-mm) diameter rigid sphere at the lowest opening portion of the window opening, with a release mechanism that shall allow the sash to be opened to a large opening area such as that required for emergency escape and rescue, and that automatically resets when a window is fully closed.

According to Coen, the subcommittee is currently in the process of updating F2090 and invites all interested parties to contribute to future revisions. “We are having ongoing virtual meetings to get everyone on the same page regarding potential updates to the standard,” says Coen.

“There is a wide range of subcommittee members, including parents whose children have been in window fall accidents, injury prevention and fire safety experts, building code officials, homebuilders, window manufacturers, makers of fall prevention devices and CPSC representatives,” says Coen, who notes that the subcommittee is particularly interested in having input from fire safety experts at this time.

Coen is hopeful that the use of F15.38 standards in building codes and in legislation such as Laela’s Law, along with continuing education and information dissemination, will help to lower the incidence of window falls in the future.