Small children tend to climb on furniture such as freestanding bookcases, drawers, wardrobes and sideboards, and if the furniture is unsecured the child’s weight can cause it to topple.
Falling furniture can not only strike a child but can trap and crush them underneath, causing the child to suffocate.
- At least 14 children under nine years old died in Australia during 2000-2015 after domestic furniture fell on them. This is around one death per year. (Source: National Coronial Information System)
- The Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU), Monash University recorded 909 emergency department visits in Victoria during January 2006 – June 2014 for injuries related to furniture tip-overs. Of these injuries:
- half were to children four years old and under
- 80% of incidents occurred in the home.
- The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit (QISU), Mater Health Service identified 1,032 cases during 1999-2013 where a child under 5 years old was injured by furniture or appliances tipping over. Of these cases:
- the three most common furniture items were chairs, chest of drawers/tallboys and tables/benches/desks
- the most common electrical appliance by far was the television
- the three most commonly identified places the injuries happened were living/dining areas, bedrooms and family/rumpus rooms.
The ACCC commissioned research in April 2015 on 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 the child was injured in the incident – although the majority of injuries were minor – and most had experienced a near-miss.
The full research report is available on this website.
- 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 and 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.
- 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 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.