PAREN(T)HESIS — Falling Furniture Hurts Children

May 2, 2018

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

When a child occasionally visits a workplace, such as on Bring Your Child to Work Day, people see things differently. A candy dish usually gets lots of attention, along with any bright plastic toys at a work station.

Similarly, when children enter a home, things can look a lot different from their point of view. Even having kids over for a few hours for Mother’s Day brunch or a Memorial Day picnic can cause one to look at one’s home differently. When kids come to visit, most people are cautious about making certain kitchen knives are not within a child’s reach nor are glass objects that could crash. Parents and a lot of grandparents and other relatives regularly cover outlets and buy baby gates.

But many people are not aware of the dangers of falling furniture, especially heavy chests of drawers or dressers. Even furniture manufactured by well-regarded brands has been recalled or has failed tests by Consumer Reports. Its May issue portrays furniture that can tip over as a “hidden hazard in your home.” Appliances and televisions can also tip and hurt, or even kill, kids. A heavy TV slipping from a high dresser could fall with the force of thousands of pounds, akin to a Packer lineman’s hit.

While I don’t personally know of anyone who has been hurt, the Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics show that it’s common. A person is hurt an average of every 17 minutes from furniture, a TV, or an appliance tipping over on them in the U.S.

In the case of bedroom furniture, children can open and climb the drawers causing the dresser to tip over on them. Perhaps they wake from a nap and start playing, unknown to their caregiver. In the worst cases, the weight of the tipped-over furniture kills a child and a parent lives with a tragic loss, and guilt that home furniture wasn’t secured.

Parents whose children have died from tipovers have published videos on anchorit.gov, a public service effort by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Lisa Siefert, whose two-year-old son died, said in a video, “A lot of people use the excuse, ‘I watch my children, so I don’t have to anchor my furniture, I don’t have to anchor my TV.’ I will tell you, you are not faster than a falling TV or a falling dresser, even if you’re right there.” She wishes she could knock on every door and shout at people to anchor their furniture in hopes of preventing a death like her son’s.

When our child was a toddler, I worried about a bookshelf falling on her. A few extra holes mark her bedroom walls from failed attempts to secure the shelf. We eventually did fasten it to the wall with little anti-tip kits that included screws and a plastic connector. Updated versions with metal connections are available online and at local hardware stores and cost roughly $10 (search for “anti-tip kit.”) I haven’t purchased furniture recently but have read that new furniture includes the necessary parts.

Installing anit-tip kits isn’t a fun chore but it certainly seems worthwhile. Holes in the wall are a small price to pay for the peace of mind.

Read more about tipover hazards, including accounts from parents of injured children: anchorit.gov and for tips: anchorit.gov/how-to-anchor-it

Make Your Home Safe From Tipovers

Use sturdy furniture
Televisions should only be placed on furniture designed to hold a television, such as television stands or media centers.

Secure your TV
Televisions that are not wall mounted should still be anchored to the wall.

Mount flat-screen TVs
Mount flat-screen TVs to the wall or to furniture to prevent them from toppling over.

Keep CRT TVs low and stable
Cathode Ray Tube televisions, which are wide and heavy, should only be placed on furniture designed to hold a television, and should be anchored to the wall or the TV stand.

Secure top-heavy furniture
Existing furniture can be anchored with inexpensive anti-tip brackets. New furniture, such as dressers, are sold with anti-tip devices. Install them right away.

Remove tempting objects
Remove items that might tempt kids to climb, such as toys and remote controls, from the top of the TV and furniture.

Purchase anti-tip devices
Anti-tip devices are sold online and in-stores for prices ranging from $5 to $25. Visit a home improvement, electronic, or mass merchandise store to purchase anti-tip devices or search online for “anti-tip strap” or “anti-tip kit.” Install the anti-tip devices according to manufacturer instructions, and always double check the attachment points to make sure the device is secure.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at jill@bayviewcompass.com. 

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