Preventing child injuries from falls

Preventing child injuries from falls - particularly from windows and balconies.
Preventing child injuries from falls - particularly from windows and balconies. 

In light of the tragic death of a 2 year old boy and the near miss of a 4 year old girl this week, Kidsafe are reminding parents to be aware of and guard against potential fall hazards for children.  Both children fell from high rise windows in NSW.

Falls are the most common cause of injuries in children. The latest national figures show that 23,952 children aged 0-14 years were hospitalised from fall injuries in 2005/06. Most of these occur in the home.

For younger children, falls are most common from playground equipment, bunk beds, nursery furniture, baby walkers, and buildings and structures

However, as can be seen from events in the past week, falls from windows and balconies are an increasing issue. This is particularly relevant now with many families living in high rise flats. Each year approximately 50 children fall from a window or balcony. For a small number of children, this has been fatal.

Where young children are more likely to have access to windows and balconies, particularly in multi-level dwellings, adult supervision is vitally important.

There are a few simple safety steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of a fall injury to your child.

General safety tips

  • Falls and trips can be potentially serious near glass. Consider installing safety glass or security film, if this is not already in place in high risk areas like doors and low windows.
  • Children under the age of 9 should not sleep on the top bunk of bunk beds.
  • Kidsafe does not recommend the use of baby walkers as they can be unstable and enable a child to move quickly into danger areas e.g. near stairs.
  • Use gates or barriers at the top and bottom of stairs to keep young children from falling.

Nursery furniture

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  • Avoid placing children on benches particularly in bouncers.
  • Be aware that babies can roll off changing tables (and other raised surfaces such as beds and sofas). Have everything you need to use close by when changing your baby, and always keep one hand on your child.
  • Use a 5 point harness with prams, strollers and high chairs.
  • Never leave young children alone on any raised surface – not even for a moment.

Playground equipment

  • Ensure that the play equipment is age appropriate for your child.
  • Ensure children are dressed in appropriate shoes and clothing.
  • Adequately supervise children using playground equipment.
  • Use soft fall materials under and around play equipment.

Windows

  • Ensure windows cannot be opened more than 9-10cm except by an adult, OR have a securely fitted window guard with spacing less than 9-10cm apart over the window opening.
  • Remember that flyscreens give no protection against falls from windows. They are designed to keep insects out and are not strong enough to keep children in.
  • Keep objects that a child can use to stand or climb on away from windows (including beds, cupboards, chairs and other furniture).
  • Be aware of hazardous windows when visiting other homes, and closely supervise your child.

Balconies

  • Ensure balcony railings are at least 1m high (preferably 1.3m high).
  • Keep objects that a child can use to stand or climb on away from balconies (including pot plants, outdoor furniture, boxes etc).
  • Don’t put lightweight furniture on the balcony as children can drag it to the edge.
  • Eliminate gaps that can be used as a foothold to climb.
  • Eliminate gaps that a child can fit through; and
  • Ensure windows and doors that open to the balcony are locked when the balcony is not in use.

To assist parents and carers with understanding the 9-10cm safety guide, Kidsafe NSW and NSW Health have developed a small magnetic ruler which can be used to check the gaps/openings in windows and balconies- visit the Kidsafe NSW website for further information on this safety campaign.

 For further information on how to prevent falls contact your local Kidsafe office: www.kidsafe.com.au