California window safety laws provide minimum safety standards to protect people, particularly children, from window falls and other risks associated with glass windows. Defective windows that don’t meet these standards may lead to window fall accidents. If an accident leads to a lawsuit, the court will determine responsibility and whether there should be compensatory damages for the victims.

General Glass Requirements

California law requires that every window should bear the manufacturer’s mark and the thickness of the glass.  The mark may be omitted if approved by the building official [PO1] [ES2] and an affidavit is provided from the glazing contractor indicating that the glass conforms to the construction documents and the requirements of the California Building Code.

Glass [ES3] framed on all four sides is much stronger than glass with one or more free edges.  As such, glass with one or more free edges must be accompanied by detailed construction documents and test data prepared by a registered design professional to ensure safe performance of the glass.

Safety Glass

Safety glass helps prevent accidental cuts and is required in nearly all homes and commercial spaces.  Safety glass must comply with specific impact testing requirements, and must be labeled in compliance with  California Building Code requirements.

Glass Doors

Safety glass is required on glass doors such as sliding glass doors, entry and exit doors, and storm doors. Safety glass is also required on windows adjacent to doors, if the window is placed within 2 feet of door and the bottom edge of the window is less than 5 feet above the ground.

Windows with Walk Through Hazards

Safety glass is required for windows with walk-through hazards.  A window is a walk-through hazard if it is located within 36 inches of a walkway, has an individual pane greater than 9 square feet, has a bottom edge less than 18 inches above the ground, and has a top edge greater than 36 inches above the ground.

Glass Near Wet Surfaces

Glass on doors, windows and walls for hot tubs, showers, bathtubs, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, indoor and outdoor swimming pools must have safety glass installed unless the bottom edge of the glass is more than 5 feet off the ground.

Stairways and Ramps

Safety glass is required for glass surfaces within 36 inches of stairways and ramps.  Safety glass is also required for glass adjacent to landings for stairways and ramps.

Athletic Facilities

Glass in athletic facilities such as racquetball, squash and basketball courts must meet specific impact [PO4] [ES5] testing requirements.

Walkways, Elevators and Elevator Cars

Glass used in walkways, elevators and elevator cars must meet more rigorous standards including load requirements and fire-resistance ratings.

Skylights and Sloped Glass

Glass in skylights, roofs and sloped walls must meet specific safety requirements for building materials, screening and framing.  Such glass must also meet maximum load requirements and outward wind speed requirements to withstand forces like hail, snow, and high wind.

Exceptions to Safety Glass Requirements

Decorative glass (such as Dalle glass) is exempt from safety glass requirements if: (1) its purpose is decorative or artistic (not functional), (2) it is carved, colored, or textured in such a way as to make it clearly visible, and (3) its surface is divided into segments.

Windows smaller than 3 inches in diameter are also exempt from safety glass requirements.

Sill Height and Fall Protection Requirements

A window fall prevention device is required for windows located less than 24 inches above the interior floor (the floor inside) and more than 72 inches above the exterior floor (the ground outside).   

A window fall prevention device is any device intended to prevent a young child from passing or falling through an open window. Young children account for a higher percentage of window fall fatalities and injuries than adults, so the requirement was designed to keep them from falling through an open window.

Fall prevention devices must be of adequate strength and may not allow openings of more than 4 inches.  Fall prevention devices may be an integral part of the window, or may be attached to the window, its frame, or the area around the window.  Fall prevention devices must be designed with release mechanisms to allow for emergency escape (egress) without the need for special tools or special knowledge.  Fall protection devices include window guards, fall protection screens, and window opening control devices.

Window Guards

A fall prevention window guard is a device designed to fit into or onto a window to prevent a child from passing or falling through an open window.  Window guards typically resemble a grille shape with vertical and horizontal bars designed to prevent a fall.

Window guards can be hazardous if they are too small, or if they are improperly installed.  Window guards without an emergency release mechanism are a dangerous fire hazard.  Manufacturers of window guards must provide detailed instructions on how to operate the emergency release mechanism.

Fall Protection Screens

A fall protection screen is a screen designed to fit into or onto a window and provide a barrier to prevent a child from falling through the window.  They are typically mounted on the exterior frame of a sliding style window, and on the interior frame of a cranking style window.  Fall protection screens must use materials and attachment mechanisms strong enough to prevent a child from breaking through and must meet the performance standards of the California Building Code.

Insect screens are intended to provide insect control and are not designed to provide security or prevent falls.  Insect screens do not quality as fall protection screens under the California Building Code.

Window Opening Control Devices

A window opening control device is a mechanism which prevents a window from opening wide beyond 4 inches.  The 4-inch dimension is universally accepted as the appropriate dimension to prevent a child from falling through a window or off a balcony or guard railing system.  

Window opening control devices must contain a release mechanism which allows the window to be opened wider such as required for emergency escape and rescue.  The emergency release mechanism must automatically reset when the window is fully closed.


A separate safety specification covers fall prevention devices for windows more than 75 ft above ground level since they are beyond the reach of rescue ladders.

Fall prevention devices are not required for windows that open less than 4 inches.

Determining Responsibility for Window Fall Accidents

Window fall accidents often result in serious injuries due to the impact of an elevated fall.  Such injuries often include traumatic brain injury, broken bones, neck and spine injuries, internal organ damage, paralysis, permanent disability and death.  Window fall accidents are typically due to an unsafe environment and are completely avoidable with adequate security measures.

Legal liability depends on the cause of the accident[ES6] [PO7] .  Defective design, inadequate fall protection devices, incorrect installation, negligent maintenance, and poor supervision may give rise to legal liability. 

Window Manufacturers

Window manufacturers are liable for injuries caused by defectively designed or manufactured windows. This includes windows with poor fitting characteristics or inadequate latches which allow them to come loose.  Window manufacturers may also be liable for failing to provide adequate warnings and instructions regarding installation and safe use of the windows.

Landlords and Building Owners

Landlords and building owners have a duty to maintain their property in a safe condition.  This includes installing adequate safety devices on windows and maintaining the windows and window safety devices in good working condition.  Windows with damaged or worn parts must be replaced and repaired.  Landlords and building owners are liable for injuries caused by damaged, worn, or inadequate windows and window safety devices.

Property Management

Landlords and owners of rental buildings often hire management companies to repair and maintain rental premises.  Failing to install and maintain safe windows, including window safety devices, may result in liability for both the maintenance company and the owner if someone is injured as a result[ES8] .  They may also be liable for injuries caused by their failure to repair damaged or worn window parts, especially if they were previously notified of the need for such repairs.

Window Contractors

Contractors and installers have a duty to install windows safely and correctly.  Windows which are not installed correctly are a safety hazard, and the company who installed them may be liable if someone is injured due to the incorrect installation.

Child Care Facilities

Window fall accidents may occur due to the inattentiveness of adults who have a duty to supervise children.  Childcare supervisors may be liable for negligence if a child is injured because of their failure to exercise due care.  Childcare supervisors include babysitters, daycare centers and schools.  Childcare supervisors should take precautions such as keeping furniture away from windows, installing window safety devices and closely monitoring young children.  Childcare supervisors are liable for window fall injuries due to their negligence.

Suffered a Window Fall Accident?

Window fall accidents often result in serious injuries.  See a doctor right away and receive treatment for your injuries.  Continue treatment as prescribed by your doctor.  Save all your receipts and medical records.  Call an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.  The best way to protect your legal rights is to hire a proven personal injury lawyer.  A good attorney will inform you, maximize your compensation, and manage the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on your recovery.

Compensation for Window Fall Victims

Victims who fall from windows due to someone else’s wrongdoing may recover for past and future medical expenses, emotional distress, pain and suffering, lost wages and other damages.

If the victim dies from the fall, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death claim.  Wrongful death claims may include medical costs related to the incident, loss of financial support, lost companionship, pain and suffering, funeral and burial costs and other damages.


California Building Code Section 2403.1

California Building Code Section 2403.2

California Building Code Section 202

California Building Code Section 2406

California Building Code Section 2406.2

California Building Code Section 2406.3

California Building Code Section 2406.4

California Building Code Section 2408

California Building Code Section 2409

California Building Code Section 2405

California Building Code Section 1015.1

California Residential Code Section R312.2

ASTM Standard F2090 (available for purchase)

California Building Code Section 1015.2

California Building Code Section 1015.4

California Building Code Section 1031

ASTM Standard F2006 (available for purchase)

California Building Code Section 1015.8

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