At least 15 children under nine years old have died in Australia since 2000 after domestic furniture fell on them.
At least 15 children under nine years old have died in Australia since 2000 after domestic furniture fell on them.

Beware of this deadly household risk

IT'S a household risk that is injuring and killing thousands of young children and it's one few parents ever give a thought.

Toppling furniture has since 1999 injured more than a thousand Queensland children aged under five with the main culprits being chairs, chest of drawers/tallboys and tables/benches/desks.

At least 15 children under nine years old have died in Australia since 2000 after domestic furniture fell on them. This is approximately one death per year.

The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit at Mater identified 1032 cases during 1999-2013 where a child under 5 years old was injured by furniture or appliances tipping over.

Of these cases:

* the three most common furniture items were chairs, chest of drawers/tallboys and tables/benches/desks

* the most common electrical appliance by far was the television

* the three most commonly identified places the injuries happened were living/dining areas, bedroom's and family/rumpus rooms.

The Australian Furniture Association says small children tend to climb on furniture such as freestanding bookcases, drawers, wardrobe's and sideboards, and if the furniture is unsecured the child's weight can cause it to topple.

Falling furniture can not only strike a child but can trap and crush them underneath, causing the child to suffocate.

Monash University through its Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit has recorded 909 emergency department visits in that state between January 2006 and June 2014 for injuries related to furniture tip-overs.

The association is pushing stronger legislation to protect children.

IKEA was forced to withdraw 27 million chest of Malm drawers in the United State in June following the deaths of three toddlers.

Similar action did not occur in Australia with the company declaring their product safe if users followed the instruction to anchor it to a wall.

Australian Furniture Association says it is aware of several similar tragic incidents in recent years where children have attempted to use drawers as steps to access an out-of-reach item only to have the chest topple over and crush them.

"The AFA is working closely with a number of compliance organisations to further develop additional mechanisms to help protect consumers, particularly the most vulnerable, our children," says AFA CEO, Patrizia Torelli.

"The need to educate designers of furniture, manufacturers, supplier's and retailers about their responsibility to adhere to appropriate standards to reduce the danger of unstable furniture is of paramount importance.

"Every time we hear of the death or injury of another person, particularly in the case of children, the impact is felt across the entire community. Our industry is constantly working to improve in order to mitigate these risks and help educate the wider community on simple ways to possibly avert these tragedies. More importantly, we need to raise consumer awareness for the top tips of buying and using furniture safely."

Top Tips to Buy safe

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

* Look for furniture that comes with safety information or equipment for anchoring it to the walls.

* Test the furniture in the shop - make sure it is stable. For example, pull out top drawers of a chest of drawers and apply a little pressure to see how stable it is; make sure the drawers do not fall out easily.

Top Tips to Use safe

* Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.

* Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.

* Place televisions at the back of cabinets or secure them to the wall.

* Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.

* Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that encourage children to climb up and reach.

* Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.

* Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.

"The AFA recommends consumers look for the AFA approved 'Warning Labels' when making furniture purchases,' Ms Torelli said.

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