Plavecsky's Ponderings By Jim Plavecsky
by Jim Plavecsky
May 16th, 2024

Summer Safety

I was walking the dogs a few days ago, when I spotted a window screen in a resident’s front lawn. My eyes naturally gazed upward to see from which window it had fallen, and I saw a curious little face peering down at us from the second story window. “I love your puppies, especially the big one,” exclaimed the little boy. He was so excited to see the puppies walking by that he was literally balancing on the edge of the windowsill. I yelled up at him, “I’ll tell you what buddy, go back downstairs and tell your mommy that you want to come outside and see the puppies and we will wait right here for you!”

I was so relieved when he listened to my suggestion and disappeared into the bedroom above. I then immediately knocked on the door and was greeted by his mother as she said, “What are you selling?” I stepped back a few steps and said, “I’m selling WOCDs!”

Well, of course, she had no idea what I was talking about, and neither would most homeowners. WOCD is an acronym, which stands for Window Opening Control Device. This term is widely recognized in the fenestration industry. Just about every hardware supplier has one in their catalog, yet not very many are sold. WOCDs are designed to limit the opening of the window, thereby preventing toddlers from falling out.

The 2006 editions of the International Code Council (ICC) I-codes introduced a requirement to provide window fall protection for operable windows where the lowest portion of the window opening is located greater than 72 inches above the exterior finished grade or surface below. However, enforcement of these codes is severely lacking, especially in the single-family sector. I know this because I sell WOCD hardware, yet the only time I get calls to provide quotes is for multi-family jobs. It seems that landlords are concerned about liability. Perhaps it is partly because liability insurance premiums on rental units may be lower if WOCD hardware is installed.

WOCDs are just one type of fall prevention device intended to help reduce the risk of accidental falls from windows. They are tested, installed, and labeled to comply with the ASTM F2090 Standard. Not all fall prevention devices, however, are considered WOCDs. For example, window guards, which are basically rail devices installed in the window opening, are also fall prevention devices, but aren’t considered WOCDs. Critics of WOCDs suggest that such devices could prevent people from escaping out of the window in the event of a fire, so the ASTM standard specifies the action of a device to disengage the WOCD and to automatically reset it upon closing of the window. The procedure for disengaging it is likely only to be understood by an adult.

Well, one thing this recent encounter proved is that it is important to remind homeowners to never think of a window screen as a window safety device. The little boy on the second floor butted his head into the screen to get a closer look at my dogs and out popped that screen, held in place by aluminum spring clips. These clips are meant to hold the screen in place but certainly cannot be expected to hold up to a strong blunt force.

Yes, the summer months are when everyone wants to throw open their windows and let in some fresh air. But it’s also a time when accidents and falls from windows are more likely to happen. Homeowners using their windows to let in fresh air need to be mindful, only opening windows that are away from where their kids are likely to be playing or to simply keep windows locked when young children are present. Toddlers are very inquisitive and love to climb and explore as was this case with this young man. He was so excited to see my dogs that he was literally rocking on the bottom edge of the windowsill. Also, kids can easily climb onto furniture that is near a window or bounce on a bed that is adjacent to a window, and before you know it, they can go flying through the window!

WOCDs are not widely used where not mandated, and even when building codes call for their usage, these codes are seldom enforced, with the exception being multifamily rental units. One important thing that can be done for window safety is to educate your customers and offer them the option of installing a WOCD, even if the local building code has no requirement to include it.

But perhaps education can help in the face of lax building codes and lack of enforcement. Homeowners can try to teach their children from an early age about the importance of safety and the dangers of falling. The National Safety Council provides a multitude of fun family resources like infographics and coloring books to make the topic of window safety both engaging and interactive. Encourage your customers to take advantage of these educational tools to teach the principles of safety to their youngsters. For example, check out his NCS article entitled Windows Are Vital to Survival But Keep Safety In Mind.

Also, perhaps window salespeople can be trained to sell WOCDs as accessories at the time of the window sale, not for the reason of adding to the revenue stream, which they will hardly do, but rather as a public service to help improve safety within the communities that we service.

After all, no one is more precious and deserving of attention to safety than our children!

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2 comments
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  1. This evening I am going to drop off a copy of this article to the parents of 16 young kids that live within a 2 block radius of my home.
    Thank you…thank you.

  2. Oh my gosh, Jim. My heart dropped when I read the first paragraph. Thank you for educating folks on WOCDs. The Window Safety Task Force – formed in 1999 – also helps to spread safety tips. Free, shareable information is available at FGIAonline.org/windowsafety. Keep up the good work!

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