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Child Fatalities From Furniture Tip-Overs: Statistics And Solutions

Child safety advocates notice that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is not doing enough to make furniture manufacturers adhere to higher safety standards.

In fact, according to Crystal Ellis of Parents Against Tip-Overs, manufacturers "are not afraid of repercussions from the CPSC."

Ellis' young child died from an incident with tipping furniture. She recently testified before lawmakers, pointing out the fact that the CPSC have various reasons not to enforce higher safety standards - from having a small budget - to having their hands tied by the limitations in Section 6-B (the information disclosure section) of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

These reasons, said Ellis, have given these furniture manufacturers time to stall – time that will result in more fatalities among young children.

Ellis, along with other child safety advocates, are asking lawmakers to pass the Sturdy Act, which would require all furniture manufacturers to have each piece of furniture undergo more rigorous safety testing before it is sold.

The Sturdy Act would also "call for more effective warnings if a piece of furniture may be defective."

Dr. Ben Hoffman, chair of the American Academy Committee of Pediatrics on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, agrees that the Sturdy Act will force manufacturers to create furniture that is safe for kids.

He pointed out that nine children have already died after being trapped under a dresser sold by Ikea. The company recalled the furniture, and there was publicity about the recall, but Dr. Hoffman explained that this does not solve the overall problem of safety testing standards, which he believes are not stringent enough. JoAnn Merrigan "Child safety groups call for legislation on tipping furniture" https://www.wsav.com (Jun. 14, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Approximately 91 percent of tip-over fatalities occur in the home, and two-thirds of furniture tip-over fatalities involve toddlers. Every 17 minutes, someone in the U.S. is injured by furniture tip-over, and one child dies every 10 days when a TV or furniture falls onto him or her.

The CPSC has developed the Anchor It! Campaign which is simply educating parents to secure furniture and TVs to the walls to protect their children from these accidents.

Ideally, everyone should strap their furniture to the wall but that is not possible.

In 2016, after the recall of the Ikea furniture, some engineering students were challenged to modify said furniture in such a way that it couldn't tip over if a child climbed on it. They successfully modified it, and they were also able to create other pieces of kid-safe furniture. However, none of the designs are production-ready yet.

Additionally, the CPSC has guidelines for designing chests that don't tip easily but they are voluntary. So, manufacturers still decide whether or not to follow them.

Until these designs become mandatory, parents and those who work with children should make sure they do everything they can to protect their children from these accidents:

  • Always follow manufacturer guidelines for how much weight a unit can safely hold.
  • TV sets should be placed on entertainment furniture specifically designed to hold them. Never use them on unstable tables, cabinets or chests.
  • Once you have placed the TV on appropriate stands, push it as far back on the furniture as possible.
  • Strap the TV to a stable stand or wall.
  • Do not put objects attractive to children, such as remote controls or toys on top of the TV or any other high furniture surface.
  • Prevent children from pulling drawers more than two-thirds of the way out by installing stops.
  • Never open more than one drawer at a time.
  • Instruct children not to climb into, stand inside or hang on drawers, shelves or doors.
  • Never remove the drawer interlock system.
  • Do not overload bookshelves and bookcases. They should be strapped to the wall.
  • Always supervise young children in a room where these safety tips have not been followed.
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