When it comes to baby-proofing, we’re all over the obvious stuff.
Choking hazards, cleaning supplies and power points are packed away or covered up.
We’re vigilant about pools and ponds, sharp edges and dangerous toys. But when it comes to furniture and televisions, we’re often oblivious. Sometimes, horribly enough, till the worst happens.
Blake’s story: The dangers of falling furniture
That was the case for the Shaw family. Their three-year-old, Blake, was tragically killed in 2016 when a bookcase fell on him at their home in rural Victoria. The toy car-loving toddler was playing with his toys near a large cabinet when his parents heard a cry for help, followed by a crash. Rushing to their son, they found the cabinet on the floor with Blake underneath.
If you want to know why it’s so important to secure your furniture to the wall, watch the anguish and heartbreak of Blake’s parents, Tim Shaw and Kirstie Rogers, in this video as they describe how they lost their “perfect” boy.
“He was right in the corner, curled up. He was gone.”
It’s a scenario that sends a lighting bolt of fear into every parents heart. Who hasn’t left their child happily playing with their toys in the living or dining room, surrounded by heavy items like televisions or cabinets? We wouldn’t even give it a second thought.
Blake’s parents bravely shared their story this week as part of a new awareness campaign from the ACCC and Kidsafe to educate parents about the dangers of unstable furniture. At least 22 children under the age of nine have died in Australia since 2001 as a direct result of falling furniture. And some 50 people are injured by toppling furniture and televisions each week.
When curiosity becomes dangerous
Melanie Courtney, CEO of Kidsafe Victoria, says the lack of awareness young children have for dangerous situations, coupled with their natural curiosity, is often a recipe for disaster.
“Children are naturally inquisitive and common household furniture can look very different and interesting from a toddler’s perspective,” says Melanie. “They may see items of furniture like bookcases and shelves as a ladder to gain access to reach an item that is stored up high.”
We’ve all seen our kids use some remarkable resourcefulness to get to what they want which is why assessing risks from a child’s perspective is hugely important. “It’s important that anyone who has young children in their home – either living there or visiting – is aware of the dangers,” Melanie says.
What can parents do?
The good news? Furniture and televisions can be secured and the danger of falling furniture accidents eliminated. ACCC Acting Chair, Delia Rickard, urges parents to check all possible risks and deal with them as soon as possible.
“We strongly encourage parents and carers to check every room in their home for toppling hazards and anchor any tall or unstable furniture or large TVs,” she says. “If you don’t have anchor kits, you can buy them cheaply at hardware stores or furniture retail outlets.
The ACCC and Kidsafe have also released these guidelines for the best ways to minimise risk from falling furniture accidents.
Furniture safety tips
- Purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and broad bases.
- Look for furniture that comes with safety information or equipment for anchoring it to the walls.
- Test the furniture in the shop – make sure it is stable. For example, pull out top drawers of a chest of drawers. Apply a little pressure to see how stable it is. Make sure the drawers do not fall out easily.
- Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.
- Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.
- Secure televisions to the wall.
- Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.
- Do not put tempting items on top of furniture. This 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.
It’s an important reminder of just how quickly an accident can happen and why prevention is always, always the best cause of action.
For more information on baby-proofing, check out our post on the dangers of side by side cots