Unsteady furniture and wobbling toddlers are a deadly combination that results in the death of a child every 10 days in the United States. When furniture tips over, children can suffer serious, even fatal crushing or traumatic brain injuries. The causes of most of these incidents include poor furniture design, improper installation, and inadequate supervision of the child.
Furniture Tip-Over Accidents
Furniture tip-over accidents send more than 40,000 people to hospital emergency rooms each year. Of these, 25,000 are children. Approximately 40 of these incidents result in the death of the child.
There have been several notable furniture recalls recently due to tip-over risk. The most visible was in 2016 when IKEA recalled several lines of dressers and chests, totaling 29 million units, following the deaths of at least seven children. The design of these pieces made them unstable and likely to tip over even when secured to the wall.
The Hazards of Voluntary Safety Standards
Many of the safety standards related to furniture design are not mandatory. Because they are voluntary, there are few safeguards against manufacturer’s who sell a substandard design to the public. Further, most people are lured into a sense of complacency regarding furniture in the mistaken belief that it is innocuous and can do no harm. Furniture, however, is heavy and the weight of a childbearing down on one corner can dangerously shift the center of gravity. When this happens, injury often occurs before parents or other caregivers can rush to protect the child.
Preventing Tip-Over Accidents
Preventing tip-over accidents starts with ensuring that parents, friends, or family members don’t purchase or gift unstable pieces of furniture. This includes old hand-me-down furniture and newly purchased pieces such as baby cribs, dressers, bookshelves, etc. that have poor safety ratings and a history of tipping over on small children.
Furniture in the home should be properly secured to the walls via the appropriate safety straps or angle brackets. These should be anchored into the studs of the wall via screws and wall anchors that are strong enough to carry the weight of the furniture if it should tip. Further, children should be supervised at all times to prevent them from climbing, pulling, or pushing furniture that can topple over on them.