Don’t be blind to the dangers of window cover cords
With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Tragically, between one and two children die in Australian homes every year as a result of blind or curtain cords that don’t comply with safety standards causing choking or strangulation. There are similar deaths occurring regularly across the world.
That’s why Consumer Protection WA recently joined fellow Australian and international regulators for an OECD global campaign to again raise awareness of the dangers associated with internal corded window coverings.
Fortunately we have not had a death in WA since 2006 but that is no reason to be complacent as Princess Margaret Hospital alone has had five children present with cord related injuries since 2012. This tells us the danger still lurks in some homes.
Following that last WA fatality, Consumer Protection worked with the group, Parents for Window Blind Safety, which was formed by the grandfather of the deceased child, to raise awareness and educate the community about the danger of curtain and blind cords to young children.
The group contributed to the introduction of mandatory safety standards on the sale of internal window coverings from 2010, with their work also recognised with a Consumer Protection Award in 2012 in partnership with Kidsafe WA.
In January 2015 a separate regulation relating to installation services of window coverings also came into effect. If installers do not follow the mandatory safety standards when installing blinds/curtains, the installer is required to rectify the work at no cost under the Australian Consumer Law.
Consumer Protection can take complaints about and prosecute suppliers and installers who do not follow the product safety standards.
Landlords of rental properties need to be especially vigilant of curtain and blind cord safety because under the Residential Tenancies Act, they are required to ensure all aspects of the premises comply with laws relating to buildings, health and safety.
Product safety laws for internal window coverings have applied in Western Australia since 23 January 2004, so landlords need to ensure blind/curtain cords and chains supplied after this date meet the national product safety requirements, and any bought and installed before then, are safe for children.
Under common law, landlords also have a duty of care to tenants and those who might visit the property, so they must ensure the premises are safe.
If a child dies or is injured in a rental property as a result of a blind/curtain cord or chain injury, the landlord could be sued for negligence. Even if the tenants do not have children a court could consider it was reasonable to expect the tenants may have children visiting the home.
- Check every room to make sure loose or looped blind cords are fixed out of reach so that children are not in danger. Install a tie-down/cleat (cheap and available at hardware stores) at least 1.6 metres above the floor, or a cord guide/tensioner that would not come out if significant force was put on the cord.
- Make sure children can’t reach from their cot, highchair, or playpen or climb on chairs, boxes etc. to reach blind cords.
- Don’t just check cords in your own home but also when you are visiting people or staying in holiday accommodation. If they’re not secured, secure them or put them well out of reach.
- When buying new blinds, consider the safer option of a wand rather than a cord.
Further information for industry and consumers can be found at www.productsafety.gov.au.
Enquiries about blind cord safety concerns can be made by calling Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 74 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.