An­chor fur­ni­ture to avoid risks to kids

Pilbara News - - Lifestyle - Gwyn­neth Hay­wood

Many prod­ucts we buy can be a dan­ger to chil­dren.

Of­ten Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion voices con­cerns about small items such as parts that can choke, but­ton bat­ter­ies that can cause in­ter­nal burns, or po­ten­tially poi­sonous laun­dry deter­gent pods.

But large items such as fur­ni­ture also pose a big risk.

Ev­ery year in Aus­tralia at least one child un­der nine years old dies from do­mes­tic fur­ni­ture fall­ing on them.

In Oc­to­ber last year, a 21-month-old boy was killed in WA by a chest of draw­ers at a home in Perth, and in 2013, a two-year-old girl was crushed to death by a tele­vi­sion.

Apart from fol­low­ing some ba­sic tips when buy­ing fur­ni­ture, adults can pro­tect chil­dren by an­chor­ing items to the wall or floor.

If you are in any doubt about how eas­ily a child’s weight can cause unan­chored fur­ni­ture to fall and kill them, we rec­om­mend you watch the An­chor it and Pro­tect a Child safety videos avail­able on­line.

There is a pow­er­ful one from the US Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion, which has a ded­i­cated web­site an­chorit.gov and the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion has a video at prod­uct­safety.gov.au/ an­chor­fur­ni­ture.

To re­duce the chance of in­juries and deaths, be sure to fol­low these im­por­tant tips:

Choose low-set fur­ni­ture or fur­ni­ture with sturdy, sta­ble and broad bases.

Try to buy fur­ni­ture that comes with safety in­for­ma­tion and equip­ment for an­chor­ing it.

Test the fur­ni­ture in the shop. For ex­am­ple, pull out top draw­ers of a chest of draw­ers and ap­ply a lit­tle pres­sure to see how sta­ble it is and how eas­ily draw­ers come out.

Al­ways check with the man­u­fac­turer or sup­plier about the suit­abil­ity of fur­ni­ture for your par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances, eg for a child’s bed­room or play­room.

Fur­ni­ture which has not passed a sta­bil­ity test or not been tested for sta­bil­ity may have a warn­ing to say so — check for warn­ings like this.

If you must buy light­weight fur­ni­ture, be sure to re­strain it from tip­ping by at­tach­ing, mount­ing or bolt­ing it to the walls and/or floors. Equip­ment to an­chor fur­ni­ture is not ex­pen­sive and read­ily avail­able from hard­ware stores.

Put locks on draw­ers to pre­vent chil­dren open­ing them and step­ping on them.

Place tele­vi­sions at the back of cab­i­nets, and if pos­si­ble strap them to the wall.

Small chil­dren should be dis­cour­aged from climb­ing on fur­ni­ture, but the fact is they will have a nat­u­ral ten­dency to do so and we all know how quick they can be.

You can make it less tempt­ing by not putting things out of reach that they want to get hold of, for ex­am­ple, a favourite toy on top of a side­board or wardrobe.

Re­mem­ber fur­ni­ture can be made top-heavy by its con­tents, or ob­jects placed on it, so do not put heavy items on top shelves of free­stand­ing book­cases.

When it comes to an­chor­ing fur­ni­ture, we have re­ceived re­ports from ten­ants that prop­erty man­agers or land­lords do not al­low them to drill holes in the wall.

Un­der WA ten­ancy law, ten­ants can be pro­hib­ited from af­fix­ing fix­tures, ren­o­vat­ing, al­ter­ing or amend­ing the home or they can be al­lowed to, on a case-by-case ba­sis with con­sent.

Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion en­cour­ages prop­erty man­agers and land­lords to give ten­ants per­mis­sion to an­chor fur­ni­ture in a bid to pro­tect chil­dren.

A hole in a wall can be patched or re­paired at the end of a rental agree­ment, but a child’s life can­not be re­placed.

If peo­ple rent­ing in WA find re­quests to an­chor fur­ni­ture are de­nied, Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion is happy to speak with the prop­erty man­ager or land­lord on be­half of the ten­ant. Email us at con­sumer@com­merce.wa. gov.au or call 1300 30 40 54.

In the case of fur­nished rental prop­er­ties, lessors should an­chor fur­ni­ture prior to ten­ants mov­ing in. Gwyn­neth Hay­wood is the se­nior re­gional of­fi­cer for Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion.

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