Commissioner's Blog: Toppling furniture can kill kids – anchor it!

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With Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll...

In the last 15 years at least 14 children under nine years old have died from domestic furniture falling on them in Australia.

Anyone who has been around small children will know that they like to climb on furniture, however if freestanding items such as bookcases, drawers or wardrobes fall, they can trap, crush or suffocate a child underneath. Many items of furniture are now fitted with easy glide drawers for ease of use. These can be deadly if a child stands on the lower drawers because as the piece of furniture starts to tip forward more and more drawers roll out and cause the entire furniture piece to topple over.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) carried out some research in April this year about consumer awareness of furniture stability risks and prevention. Specifically, the research focused on the particular dangers of common furniture in homes with children under the age of five. Among other findings, the research showed that of parents who had experienced a dangerous toppling incident (27%), almost a quarter of those said a child was injured, although the majority of injuries were minor.

Following the study, the ACCC came up with these tips for consumers:

Buy safe

  • Purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and broad bases.
  • Look for furniture that comes with safety information and equipment for anchoring it to the walls.
  • Test the furniture in the shop – make sure it is stable. For example, pull out the top drawers of a chest of drawers and apply a little pressure to see how stable it is; make sure the drawers do not fall out easily.

Use safe

  • Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.
  • Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.
  • Place televisions at the back of cabinets or secure them to the wall.
  • Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.
  • Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that can encourage children to climb up and reach.
  • Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.
  • Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.

A safety video, produced as part of a campaign by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission called 'Anchor it and Protect a Child' can be viewed at www.productsafety.gov.au or you can find it by searching the title on the internet.

KidSafe WA (www.kidsafewa.com.au) has a great tool on its website called Online Safety Demonstration House to help identify hazards in the home for children, and simple steps you can take to keep kids safe.

Anne Driscoll
Anne Driscoll, by CP Media
Anne Driscoll, by CP Media

 

Consumer Protection
Department News
24 Jul 2015

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