Holiday safety consumer alert: Blind and curtain cords can kill

A holiday safety consumer alert has been issued by Consumer Protection following the recent tragic death of a two-year-old girl who was strangled by a blind cord at her home on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast last month.

With children spending more time at home over the summer holiday season, the young child’s death is a grim reminder that parents and carers must be vigilant to the dangers in the home or, if going away, in the holiday accommodation.

Tragic accidents can be avoided if the cords are more than 1.6 metres from the floor and secured to the wall with a cleat or tensioning device.

Regulations that came into force in 2010 require that all looped cords must be designed and installed so as to remain firmly attached to a wall or other structure specified in the installation instructions when subjected to a tension force of 70 N applied in any direction for 10 seconds, and to prevent the possibility of a cord forming a loop 220mm or longer at a height of less than 1.6 metres above floor level.

When installing blinds or curtains, a tie-down/cleat should be used that is not easy to remove from the wall but would come out if significant weight was applied. Wands rather than cords may be a safer option.

There are also warning label and installation instruction requirements contained in the national mandatory standards: Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard - Corded Internal Window Coverings) Regulations 2010. Strong penalties apply for those who break the law, including fines up to $220,000 for an individual or $1.1 million for a business or body corporate.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe said free-hanging cords from window coverings have been responsible for the deaths and injuries of many children over many years in Australia.

“While the new regulations have been in place for ten years now, there may be homes, particularly older ones, that don’t comply. We urge owners to check to make sure that the cords are completely safe for children who may live or visit the home,” Ms Lipscombe said.

“This is particularly important for the providers of holiday accommodation and parents should check that any cords comply soon after checking in. It may be that beds or other furniture have been placed near the window that might provide an opportunity for a child to climb up, in which case, the cords may continue to pose a danger.”

Other holiday safety tips include:

  • Consumer Protection prefers accommodation with bunk beds are avoided but, if you have no choice, then make sure the top bunk has a guardrail, there are no gaps that could trap a child’s head, the ladder is secure and ceiling fans are at least two metres from the top bunk;
  • Make sure cots being used meet Australian standards where the sides and ends are fully locked while the cot is in use. Older style cots may not comply with more recent safety regulations creating risks of entrapment and suffocation;
  • Heavy furniture toppling onto children poses a risk, so don’t allow children to climb onto furniture such as chest of drawers, cabinets or television units. Check the furniture is secure and don’t place any items on top of the furniture that might tempt children to try to climb on to reach the top of it;
  • If the property has a balcony, keep outdoor furniture away from the edge and ensure children do not climb on the balcony furniture or railings;
  • Any pool with water deeper than 30 centimetres must be fenced and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. Many drownings have occurred when gates have been left propped open or objects that can be climbed on are left near the fence, so check that these hazards don’t exist;
  • Portable pools pose a serious drowning risk even though they do not need to be fenced off. Empty portable pools after use and store them away securely. Leaving them out where they can fill up with rain or sprinkler water could prove to be a fatal mistake;
  • Flotation devices should not be seen as a replacement for adult supervision. Armbands, rubber rings or floating mattresses are made of materials that can perish in the sun or be burst by a sharp object, meaning they can deflate unexpectedly; and
  • If the accommodation has a spa, children should be closely supervised at all times. Don’t allow them to put their head underwater as their hair can get caught in the filter and there is a serious risk of drowning.

“Following these simple rules can ensure your holiday remains enjoyable and everyone returns home safe,” the Commissioner said.

Further consumer safety advice is available at Contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or by email if you want to report an unsafe situation at any home or accommodation premises that causes concern.


Media contact:

Consumer Protection
Media release
15 Dec 2020

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