Safety Glass

Safety Glass: Is Laminated Glass or Toughened Glass the Best Option?

Safety glass is required for use in 'critical locations' in domestic buildings to protect people from accidental injury. Both laminated glass and toughened glass are used as safety glass in different situations, but which one is better to choose?

Safety glass can be laminated or toughened glass

Glass is a superior material, but windows, doors and large expanses of glazing can be lethal to a person if they break upon impact from accidental collision. For this reason, to protect people there are strict regulations for the use of safety glass.

What Is Safety Glass?

Safety glass is different from standard annealed float glass by the way it has been treated and how it breaks on impact. Annealed glass will break into large jagged shards that can pierce or cause deep life-threatening cuts to a person or animal.

To be called safety glass, the glass must pass testing to measure the impact it can withstand before it breaks and how it breaks.

There are two types of safety glass:

  • Laminated glass
  • Toughened (or tempered) glass

Find out the differences between laminated glass and toughened glass and when each is appropriate to use as safety glass. We also highlight the security standards to look out for.

The break pattern of safety glass

What Is Safety Glass Used For?

Safety glass is used in any area deemed a 'critical location' where there is a risk that if the glass could break it would cause serious harm and injury.

The main applications of safety glass are:

  • Low-level windows
  • Glazing in doors
  • Balustrades
  • Glass stairs
  • Glass floors
  • Furniture such as shower screens, tables and worktops

Different Glass Types for Different Needs

View the Everest range of specialist glass and glazed units.

What Is the Difference Between Toughened and Laminated Glass?

Toughened glass and laminated glass are often confused with each other, although they are different products manufactured in different ways. Each has its own benefits and applications.

Laminated GlassToughened Glass
European Standard Number: BS EN 14449European Standard Number: BS EN 12150
Can be 'broken' and crackedIs up to five times stronger than ordinary glass
Is held together by the PVB layer, which is difficult to pierceShatters into small granular pieces with dulled edges for safety
Required in car windscreensRequired in windows up to 800mm from ground level and 1,500mm for doors with glazing
Enhanced noise reductionNo noise reduction
Enhanced UV resistanceNo UV resistance
Chosen for security or safetyChosen for safety
Usually has a B/2 class ratingUsually has the highest safety rating A/1
More expensive but offers more protectionMore economical and used more often as safety glass

The edge of laminated glass

Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is made by sandwiching a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) layer of thin plastic between two panes of annealed glass and fusing them together. The PVB thin layer is a minimum of 0.38 mm thick and can be used in multiples to create more resistance (for example, bulletproof glass) – 0.76mm is usually the maximum thickness for domestic glass.

The unique quality of laminated glass is how the glass is fused to the PVB layer and stays in place if it's broken. For this reason, it's used in skylights or glass ceilings to avoid glass shattering and falling from above.

As the laminate layer is so thin, it's difficult to detect any perceptible difference in the glass.

Safety glass should be marked by a kitemark and the Standard for laminated glass is BS EN 14449.

Read more: Laminated glass...

Toughened or tempered glass

Toughened Glass

Toughened glass is sometimes known as tempered glass or safety glass. The glass is up to five times as strong as standard annealed glass and if broken, shatters into small granular pieces that don’t have sharp or jagged edges.

Toughened glass is made when annealed float glass is heated and then rapidly cooled with cold-blown air.

This process causes the outer surfaces of the glass to harden before the centre of the glass and this creates compressive stress making it harder to break.

Read more: Toughened glass...

What Is Laminated Glass Used for and What Is Toughened Glass Used For?

Laminated GlassToughened Glass
Glass stairs/balustradesLow-level windows
Glass floorsShower screens
Shop frontsSplashbacks/shelves
Aquariums/animal enclosuresWorktops
Jewellery display casesTabletops
UV resistance/solar control
Glazed entrance doors

Which Is Stronger Laminated or Toughened Glass?

Toughened glass is physically stronger than laminated glass and harder to break. However, when it does break it's designed to shatter into granular pieces and then offers no resistance to intrusion.

However, laminated glass is designed to not shatter or splinter when broken and that avoids injury by holding the glass on the PVB layer. Laminated glass might have a lower break point than toughened glass but is also very difficult to pierce. In some ways laminated glass could be considered stronger as it is more resistant to intrusion.

Safety Glass Standards & Regulations in Domestic Buildings

All domestic glass installed in what is deemed a 'critical location' is required to meet British Standards and Building Regulations.

Building Regulations Approved Document K

Building regulations state that in domestic buildings any glazing in 'critical locations' should protect against risk from impact.

  • Measures to limit the risk of cutting and piercing injuries by the use of glazing that is reasonably safe, such that, if breakage did occur, any particles would be relatively harmless
  • Use of glazing sufficiently robust to ensure the risk of breakage is low
  • Steps are taken to limit the risk of contact with the glazing

Critical locations in domestic buildings are any area up to 800mm from floor level for a fixed window, or up to 1,500mm from floor level for an opening door and surrounding area.

Safety glass critical locations

Different areas have different requirements for the classification of the glass and in some small areas safety glass is exempt. For example, less than half-a-metre square and more than 6mm thick.

Critical locationAreaStandard Rating (minimum)
Glazing in doorsWithin 1500mm from the floor levelBS 6206 C
BS EN 12600 3B3
If the smallest dimension is more than 900mmBS 6206 B
BS EN 12600 2B2
Glazing adjacent to doorsWithin 300mm of the edge of a door and within 1500mm from the floor levelBS 6206 C
BS EN 12600 3B3
If the smallest dimension is more than 900mmBS 6206 B
BS EN 12600 2B2
Low-level glazingWithin 800mm of the floor levelBS 6206 C
BS EN 12600 3B3
ExemptionsIf the smallest dimension is less than 250mm and the area is less than 0.5m2, the glass is 6mm thick
Glass protected by a suitable barrier

Note that glazed areas in critical locations can be shielded by permanent screen protection to avoid the installation of safety glass. The permanent screen should comply with the following:

  • Prevent a sphere of 75mm from coming into contact with the glazing (have gaps no more than 75mm)
  • Be robust
  • If it protects glazing installed to help prevent people from falling, it must be difficult to climb and not have horizontal railings

Safety Glass Classification and Marking

For Building Regulations, safety glass should be visibly marked with the grade of classification. The mark must contain the following:

  • The manufacturer's name or trademark of manufacturer
  • European Standard number e.g EN 14449
  • Classification from the EN 12600 (or 6206) impact test e.g. 2B2

Safety glass marking

European Standard Number

  • Laminated glass BS EN 14449: Glass in Building – Laminated and laminated safety glass – product standard
  • Toughened glass BS EN 12150: Glass in Building – Thermally toughened soda lime silicate safety glass

Testing Classification

For glass to be deemed safety glass it must undergo testing via an impact test. Security glass is rated with a test to simulate a manual attack. 

Previous rating: BS 6206:1981 Specification for Impact Performance Requirements for Flat Safety Glass and Safety Plastics for use in Buildings (Partially superseded but remains current and is cited in Building Regulations)

BS EN 12600:2002 Glass in building – Pendulum test – Impact test method and classification for flat glass

The test uses a large pendulum with different levels of impact to measure the level of robustness of the glass as if a person ran into a large window at speed. The test demonstrates how the glass holds together to avoid piercing or cutting a person. You can see the Everest impact test below.

  • BS 6206 grades are ‘A, B or C’ with ‘A’ being the highest performance grade
  • BS EN 12600 grades are ‘1, 2 or 3’ with ‘1’ being the highest performance grade
  • For comparison purposes between the two Standards grade ‘A’ = ‘1’, ‘B’ = ‘2’ and ‘C’ = ‘3’

Safety Impact Test

Impact is measured using a pendulum test where a 45kg leather bag filled with lead shot is dropped from varying heights to simulate impact at different levels of force. The glass must not break, or break safely. The higher the force resistance, the higher the Safety Standard rating – Class A is the highest rating.

BS EN 12600BS 6206Drop heightTo simulate
1B1A1200mmAdult running into glass
2B2B450mmAdult walking into glass, but not running
3B3C190mmChild running into glass, adult pushing against glass

Everest offers laminated glass or toughened glass as an option in all windows, doors and conservatories. We also follow all Building Regulations to ensure that the correct safety glass is installed where required.

References from:

Commonly Asked Questions

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    Is safety glass the same as toughened glass?

    Safety glass is often thought to be toughened glass or tempered glass.

    Safety glass is defined by meeting various Building Regulations and British Standards by testing.

    Both laminated glass and toughened glass can be used as safety glass if they meet requirements.

  • +
    Is safety glass a legal requirement?

    In areas deemed 'critical locations' safety glass is a requirement of Building Regulations.

    Critical locations in domestic buildings are usually areas that could cause serious injury or pierce upon impact, such as doors, door side panels and low-level glazing in walls or partitions.

    The areas considered 'critical locations' include from floor level to 1500mm for glazed doors, from floor level to 800mm for low-level windows and 300mm wide from the side of a door in glazing adjacent to a door.

  • +
    Is toughened glass breakable?

    Yes. Toughened glass is four times stronger than standard annealed glass but it can still be broken by force.

    When toughened glass breaks, it shatters into small granular cube-like pieces that don't have sharp or jagged edges to avoid piercing and injury.

  • +
    Can you break laminated glass?

    Laminated glass is made from two panes of glass fused together with an internal layer of PVB.

    Laminated glass can be broken, but the pieces of glass will hold together on the PVB layer to avoid injury. The laminate layer is difficult to pierce and offers more security from intruders.

    Standard laminated glass can eventually be pierced, but it does take considerable effort. Different weights of PVB layering offer more resistance to piercing.

We Can Help You Choose the Right Glass for Your Home

Book your free quotation appointment with one of our local consultants who will discuss your requirements, show you samples and provide you with a free no-obligation quote.