Child injury and death due to furniture tip-overs on the rise

Consumer Reports News: March 25, 2011 10:52 AM

When unsecured home furnishings or appliances fall over, children are the most likely to be hurt. An annual average of 13,000 people are injured from such accidents and some 27 are killed, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CPSC reported that there were an estimated 38,900 injuries from 2006 to 2008, and 242 deaths from 2000 to 2008, associated with instability or tip-over of appliances, furniture and TVs. The data were collected from emergency room visits across the country. Although the numbers took a slight dip in 2007, the 2008 injury count is higher than that of 2006.

The majority of injuries and fatalities occurred in residential homes, and just over half of the emergency-department-treated injuries from toppling furniture involved a television set falling, and 34 percent involved furniture—usually a dresser, bureau or chest of drawers—falling over.

Children between the age of 1 month and 8 years old were overwhelmingly the most likely to be fatally injured, and accounted for just over half of all emergency room visits related to this type of accident. The CPSC was able to break its data down to reveal the specifics surrounding child fatalities, but for every emergency-room report that provided details there were just as many, if not more, that lacked such information.

Our take: From what data are provided, it appears that children are most likely to be fatally injured if they are climbing on the furniture in the bedroom, and are between the ages of 2 and 3.5 years old. ASTM-International’s furniture safety standard specifies that units taller than 30 inches include a consumer-installed tip restraint and bear a warning label about the risks of tip over. However, that standard is voluntary and we believe it’s not strong enough. Furniture should be inherently stable and not be hazardous under foreseeable circumstances should a consumer not install the tip restraint. The test for inherent stability specified in the ASTM standard is technically flawed, but internal wrangling and foot-dragging within the committee that develops the standard is leaving children at risk. We hope this group can model themselves after some of the ASTM committee on juvenile products and toys who are often quick to address hazards.

For detailed information about safely securing your furniture you can see our furniture safety guide for children, as well as our safety tips for changing tables, and changing table buying guide.


Don Mays

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