Toppling Furniture a Danger to Young Children

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe today warned consumers of the dangers associated with free standing furniture and household items placed atop furniture that can topple over and cause significant injury and, in tragic cases, death.

“Toppling furniture incidents continue to occur in Australia with an estimated 300 incidents of injuries to children in Australia every year,” said Mr Stowe.

“Furniture tip-over is a serious home safety risk. Many parents don’t recognise the hidden dangers posed by everyday furniture items around the home such as chests of drawers, flat screen televisions and bookcases. These items can quickly become safety hazards for toddlers who love to climb on furniture and similar items. Television sets placed on units can too easily come crashing down on top of a child and are statistically the most potentially dangerous household appliances.

Mr Stowe said that furniture should have broad and stable bases and that television sets should be anchored to a wall.

“In cases where items can’t be affixed to a stable wall, parents should select weighty, stable furniture that can withstand the pulling and pushing of children’s play.

“Modern pieces of furniture that are flat packed will often come with brackets, braces or wall straps to secure unstable and top-heavy pieces.

“Dresser drawers may be fitted with stops to prevent them from being pulled all the way out. Multiple open drawers can cause the weight in a piece of furniture to redistribute unevenly, making it easier for the furniture to topple over.

Mr Stowe also encouraged parents to keep heavier items on lower shelves and bottom drawers.

“Avoid placing remote controls, food, toys or other items in higher places where kids might be tempted to climb up or reach for them.”

Statistical data compiled by the ACCC website indicated that at least 14 children under nine years old died in Australia during 2000-2015 after domestic furniture fell on them.

This is around one child death per year.

Mr Stowe said it was important for parents to understand how to reduce the risks associated with freestanding furniture.

“Recent findings indicate that retailers rarely discuss furniture stability with prospective purchasers and although parents do have an understanding of the dangers of unanchored furniture, there is a gap in them knowing how to reduce that risk.

“Before installing furniture mounting mechanisms and other anti-tipping devices that will result in changes to a rental property, renters should obtain permission from their landlord or agent to make alterations to the property.

“However, while the landlord’s permission is generally required, they cannot unreasonably refuse.

“If you consider that the landlord or agent has unreasonably refused permission to make alternations, Fair Trading has a tenancy complaint handling service that can assist.”

Complaints can be lodged through the website at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au