Window warning

by Walter Olson on September 2, 2012

Spotted by @thomasabowden:

Under the headline “Warning: Open Window + Gravity = Bad”, Kevin at Lowering the Bar comments: “I assume one of these is required on every window nowadays, or at least those that open.”

P.S. Reader Kim Schratweiser writes:

“We had new windows installed yesterday and I love this warning label:

“I was also pleased to note that this was on a removable sticker on the glass and I don’t have to look at warning labels when the window is open. The old windows had a warning label on the bottom of the upper sash, so when the window was open the label was clearly visible and quite ugly.”

{ 21 comments }

1 Rusty Bill 09.02.12 at 9:33 am

Depending on the size of that sign – and knowing bureaucrats, it probably has to be able to be read thirty feet away – it sorta negates the purpose of having a window in the first place. How long before the busybodies mandate that all new buildings cannot have windows due to the “safety” factors involved?

Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can’t help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity. – Lazarus Long

2 John Fembup 09.02.12 at 10:03 am

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

— Robert Heinlein

3 Richard Nieporent 09.02.12 at 10:07 am

I saw a warning label recently on a narrow bathroom window that stated that an open window could result in injury or death. It also warned that the window screen could not prevent someone from falling out the open window. Why anyone would want to lean out a bathroom window, let along manage to fall out of it is a mystery to me.

When I grew up, I lived in an apartment building in the Bronx. Nobody seemed to have a problem with falling out of open windows. However, twenty years later the city installed iron grates on the outside of every window to prevent a person from falling out of the open window. I am only surprised that they still allow the windows to be opened.

4 John Burgess 09.02.12 at 11:54 am

@Richard Nieporent: Opening a bathroom window and hanging out of it is actually quite common among those who smoke in an otherwise non-smoking venue. Licit or illicit smoke, having it go directly to the outdoors is preferable to having the smoke linger inside.

5 Jonathan Bailey 09.02.12 at 12:20 pm

“….quite common among those who smoke in an otherwise non-smoking venue.”

Cause of death: smoking by indirect means………

6 ras 09.02.12 at 4:19 pm

This is unacceptable cuz dangerous insects can still get inthrough the open window, bars notwithstanding, to bite and sting and otherwise endanger the occupants. But perhaps a strong stinger-control law could be passed to take care of that.

7 Richard Nieporent 09.02.12 at 4:21 pm

Richard Nieporent: Opening a bathroom window and hanging out of it is actually quite common among those who smoke in an otherwise non-smoking venue.

@John Burgess: How many times have you fallen out? :)

8 kimsch 09.03.12 at 1:45 am

We got new windows two weeks ago and they all had a lovely (removable) sticker that says:

!!! CAUTION !!!
Children Can’t Fly
Screens are not designed to restrain
a child from falling through an open
window. Please take proper precautions.

They can’t?

9 wfjag 09.03.12 at 11:16 am

“twenty years later the city installed iron grates on the outside of every window to prevent a person from falling out an open window.”
Kept them in during building fires, too.

10 OBQuiet 09.03.12 at 8:29 pm

This sticker is a danger. I recently ran into( that is a separate legal issue being dealt with as we speak), a young man who tried to read one of these stickers. Unfortunately, the window was mounted upsidedown. While attempting to stand on his head to understand the meaning, he tumbled down a flight of stairs.

Actions have been started against the window installer, the window manufacturer and the builder who installed the stairway. It seems obvious to any layman that a series of narrow ledges extending to a height of almost 4 meters without individual safety gates between each was inherently dangerous and defective.

11 DensityDuck 09.04.12 at 2:05 pm

Well, let’s ask the obvious question.

Why would you assume, as a matter of course, that a covering placed across a window would not be strong and sturdy enough to keep someone from falling through it?

12 No Name Guy 09.04.12 at 2:53 pm

Density:

When the covering was designed to keep OUT insects having a mass of far less than a gram that have a maximum speed of on the order of a couple KM / hour, one could conclude that they’re not designed to keep in a 30kg child running at 10 KM/hour.

Lets see, doing the math, momentum is mass x velocity, so that mosquito is 0.001 KG x 2 KM/ H x 1000 meters / km divided by 3600 seconds per hour = 0.000556 N-M while the child is at 83.33 N-M, only a factor of 150,000 higher. If it’s kinetic energy (KE = 1/2 * mass * velocity squared) and not momentum that is more important, the child only carries 750,000 times as much kinetic energy as the mosquito.

Note: weights and speeds plucked out of the air, but in the ballpark, for illustrative purposes, but do manage to show the order of magnitude scales between keeping mosquito’s out and children in. I think I’m being extremely generous on assigning one gram as the mass of a mosquito, so the magnitude is certainly higher. Also note, this illustrates how engineers think – doing rough order of magnitude calculations to see the scope of a problem. To a lawyer, it’s “well, its OBVIOUS that a screen to keep bugs out is designed to keep people in”. How foolish are lawyers, anyways? Are they so divorced from physical reality? Yes….yes they are. See Density’s comment for proof. QED.

13 kimsch 09.04.12 at 3:43 pm

No Name Guy,

You are very generous with your weight for a mosquito. A raisin weighs about 1 gram so I think we’re on the order of 1 gram ≈ 35(?) mosquitos…

14 No Name Guy 09.04.12 at 4:35 pm

Like I said, extremely generous. :-)

Heck, I just Googled “weight of mosquito” – the wiki article was the first thing up. It claims a “skeeter” is on the order of 0.0025 grams (~25 milligrams). Although “grams” is a unit of mass, not weight (the engineer in me quibbles about such things).

15 DensityDuck 09.04.12 at 7:41 pm

“When the covering was designed to keep OUT insects ”

How am I supposed to know that? I didn’t buy the screen or install it.

“Note: weights and speeds plucked out of the air”

Give me a damn break.

Okay, so, setting aside the dubious notion of someone who claims to be an engineer doing a safety analysis on numbers that he “plucked out of the air”, let’s assume that you actually went and got the actual numbers first. Then you did the math–based on a further assumption, that the impact of an individual mosquito was the design load case–and found the expected bearing allowable for out-of-plane tension membrane loading, determined the load for someone leaning on the window (unless you wanted to pull that out of the air, too), and compared the two.

Or you could have just looked at the sticker. But hey, only silly people would look at a sticker, right? I mean, it’s obvious that someone would have known that the screens were exempt from the local building codes about load-bearing capacity of window coverings, and been able to perform the structural engineering calculations necessary to determine that they’d fall out if they leaned on it.

16 HFB 09.05.12 at 11:41 am

So…is the purpose of glass to hold you in?

I thought it was for allowing light (and air if opened) into the room. Pretty sure that I could break through a window if I leaned on it, or ran into it, or any other number of obvious things. Don’t need a sticker to “inform” me. After all, the header over the window is what gives it support. The window and composite framing is just filler. No real “structural” support at all. Now, that’s not to say that it isn’t strong enoough to do the job for which it was purposed, but that’s only going to add a little support in the space it’s using.

I have a floor to ceiling sliding glass door that is stronger (maybe tempered?)…still tell my kids not to bang on it, lean on it etc.

How did people get to thinking that glass is designed to hold up to your weight?

About that flimsy plastic/metal screen…

Gimme a brak….

17 DensityDuck 09.05.12 at 12:15 pm

“is the purpose of glass to hold you in? ”

Why should I assume that it isn’t?

Is the purpose of a wall to hold me up if I lean on it? Maybe we’ve all been idiots all along, going around just assuming that the walls of the room are capable of bearing our weight.

18 No Name Guy 09.05.12 at 12:21 pm

Density, density, density…..You sir, are dense….or is it obtuse?

Oh, its physics…you know, F=mA type stuff. F*t = m * V And yes, you really only need to pluck reasonable numbers out of the air to scope a problem.

You see, here’s how it works in engineering when approaching a new problem: Make all conservative assumptions / ball park estimates and run the rough calculation, you know using PHYSICS from that old fuddy duddy Newton. Then make all sporty / favorable assumptions and run the rough calculations again. You’ve just bounded the problem. If neither answer gives you a workable solution, seek a different approach as you’ve just quickly (and inexpensively) eliminated a possible solution.

If either or both calculations indicate that a solution to the problem is possible, then refine the calculations with more more detailed starting conditions (say by using 0.0025 grams instead of 1 gram as the mosquito weight) and a more refined analysis. In this case, the 1 gram initial estimate for the skeeter was conservative.

Using this process, many potential solutions to engineering problems can be investigated and the possible solution space narrowed quickly to only those that are workable.

It’s pretty straight forward to see that a screen designed to keep skeeters out is a non structural member – you know, to not keep a child IN. A few plastic clips (typically what holds a screen in place – they’re what hold in the screens on my home) aren’t, on inspection (you know, that experience thing), robust enough to withstand the impact of a child running /jumping at the screen, or even leaning against it with any force. But hey, you just go on and quibble about stuff you clearly don’t comprehend, and ignore the magnitudes of difference in forces that holding in a child relative to keeping out bugs.

19 HFB 09.05.12 at 3:00 pm

“Why should I assume that it isn’t? ”

Because it’s a window?? Not load bearing wall. Not a structural support beam. Not a…a…floor! Don’t lean against windows, bookshelfs, appliances, small children, etc.

What is it that they say about assumptions. The mother of all fu… err… lawsuits. And people wonder why common sense is dead.

That’s the point of these warnings. Somebody had a freak accident and attributed it to thinking this thing was not just a window for looking through and feeling the breeze. It’s so obviously designed to support the weight of a person-or should be. Let me sue! How long until all windows at any hieght above ground have to bear the weight of a full-grown adult…and then we all bear the costs of such nonsense? Oh, wait. We’re already paying the extra costs for these lawsuits.

20 DensityDuck 09.06.12 at 4:39 pm

“[Y]es, you really only need to pluck reasonable numbers out of the air to scope a problem.”

Says the guy who overestimated the weight of a mosquito by four hundred times. But hey, keep going with that “reasonable numbers” thing, it really seems to be working for you.

“It’s pretty straight forward to see that a screen designed to keep skeeters out is a non structural member ”

How do I know it was “designed to keep skeeters out”? What about the screen makes that clear? “oh well it’s obvious” Really? Obvious like the weight of a mosquito, maybe?

“Because it’s a window? Not load bearing wall.”

Ho, ho, ho. I look forward to you going to Japan and putting your arm through a door because, hey, how were you supposed to know it was actually made of paper?

21 Walter Olson 09.09.12 at 1:22 pm

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