Significant numbers of young children are becoming seriously injured due to falls from residential building windows. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 years are at particular risk of falling. However, a number of children as young as one year and children in older age groups have also been injured due to a fall from a window.
Children are at risk of severe and life threatening injuries in the event of such a fall including skull fractures and brain injuries, neck injuries and limb fractures.
Children are experiencing falls from a variety of different types of dwellings ranging from apartment buildings, townhouses or duplex type accommodation and free standing homes.
Many parents and children mistakenly believe that a fly screen offers a physical barrier preventing a child from falling. This is not the case as demonstrated by many examples of children being admitted to children’s hospitals for emergency treatment following a fall from a window through a fly screen.
With the vast majority of injuries occurring during the warmer months of the year, an increase in parental awareness of the potential for children to fall from windows including those fitted with fly screens will assist in preventing many of these injuries.
Children love to engage in exploratory play and will often fail to identify potential hazards. Many children who fall from windows had been playing on furniture placed by or beneath the window opening. Wherever possible furniture should not be placed beneath windows allowing a platform upon which young children could potentially climb or launch themselves by jumping.
Parents should also take the opportunity to speak to their children about the potential danger of falling from heights, even from a very early age.
Most importantly, consideration needs to be given to the installation of physical barriers such as window locks to prevent children from falling.
In NSW there are new laws for windows in strata buildings, which came into force on 13 March 2018. The law requires all strata buildings to ensure that windows above ground floor do not open more than 12.5 cm. The property owner is responsible for providing window safety devices for rooms above the ground floor.
For more information on the responsibilities and rights of landlords visit NSW Fair Trading. Click Window safety device requirement for more information from NSW Fair Trading.
Three factors that influence how serious a fall can be are the height of the potential fall, what the child could fall onto and what a child might hit as they fall. Falls from windows and balconies can be especially serious.
Follow these tips to help protect children from falling out of windows or from balconies:
- Keep windows locked to a maximum opening of 12.5 cm
- Move chairs and furniture such as beds, cots or change tables away from windows
- Keep children from going on a balcony unsupervised by locking the door or by installing a safety guard across the entry to the balcony
- Move any item children could climb on away from the edge of the balcony, such as pot plants, furniture and play equipment
- Always supervise children when they are on balconies
- Do not rely on fly screens to prevent a child from falling through a window.
- Request a Kidsafe ruler to check your window opening.
Kidsafe NSW provides practical suggestions, guidance and support to parents, grandparents, carers and anyone involved in keeping kids safe. The main focus areas are child safety in and around the home, water safety, playground safety and road safety.
Currently Kidsafe NSW is focusing on preventing children falling from windows and balconies. Kidsafe aims to make a safer world for kids!
Go to kidsafensw.org for further information on hazards around the home and to obtain a copy of Home Safety Checklist - a great resource to understand hazards in and around the house.
Find out more about Kidsafe NSW here