As you plan your sun-filled vacation to an exotic southern location, keep in mind that many hotels outside of North America are constructed with lower standards than we are used to. This results in risks and hazards we don’t usually think about. This is especially important if your children accompany you, as they may not be familiar with the hazards of unsafe glass doors and windows.
Some of the most common (and horrific) accidents that can occur involve severe lacerations caused by breaking patio doors. The most common accident is walking through a closed glass door because it was not seen and assumed to be open.
In Canada, building codes and standard business practices normally require the use of tempered or safety glass in patio doors used in hotels. Often markings, decals or other warnings are used to indicate the presence of the glass in a doorway to prevent someone walking into the clear glass door.
In many foreign destinations, the patio doors are constructed of normal, thin plate glass. Local building codes and regulations do not require tempered glass or safety glass (wire mesh). This plate glass is easily broken by pressure or collision. In bright sunlight, it is often difficult to tell whether a glass door is open or closed and can easily be mistaken as being open. When plate glass breaks, it shatters into large and dangerous shards, which can easily cause severe lacerations to the skin. Plate glass is unlike safety tempered glass, which will shatter into small pieces and pose little danger of severe laceration.
When you arrive at your hotel, you should take a close look at your accommodations with safety concerns in mind including balconies, glass doors, and windows in your unit. Determine whether the glass used is simple plate glass, safety, or tempered glass. One way to identify tempered glass is to view the glass in sunlight through polarized lenses, which will reveal dark lines or spots that are prime indicators that the glass is tempered. The lines are formed by the machine rollers during the manufacturing cooling process. Also look for dimples, bending or warping in the glass or actual markings in the corners identifying it as tempered glass. If you cannot tell, assume it is simple plate glass or ask hotel management.
In the event you determine the patio door or windows are ordinary, dangerous plate glass, notify your tour operator or hotel management and asked to be moved to a safer room, especially if you have children or mobility-challenged members of your party. You can also consider placing temporary markers or signs on the glass to warn users of the presence of glass. Warn children to stay away from the glass door and not to push on it, hit it or run near it. Consider lowering blinds or drawing curtains when bright sunlight is present to warn of the glass presence.
In the unfortunate event you are injured in a plate glass incident in a foreign hotel, take pictures of the window and room set up. You should immediately speak to a lawyer to determine whether a claim can be advanced against the hotel or the tour operator you contracted with. Claims against foreign companies can be difficult, given jurisdictional issues and applicability of foreign law in terms of liability and /or damages. Liability in such circumstances is determined by the law in existence in the place where the incident occurred, and many foreign vacation locations do not have occupier’s liability legislation or tort responsibility laws like those that exist here.