Keeping kids safe

23 Feb 2013

High density housing and community living offer a great lifestyle but can also pose dangers especially for children. Falls from balconies and windows saw 210 children admitted to The Children's Hospital at Westmead in New South Wales between January 1998 and November 2011. No doubt the statistics are similar in Victoria and Queensland. Of these, 113 cases were due to a window fall and 97 cases were due to a balcony fall. Children aged one to five years of age are most at risk.

Senior Lecturer with the Faculty of Law at the University of NSW, Cathy Sherry knows more than most people about the price paid by adventurous young children who are seriously injured in falls. She spent two years working with a cross-section of experts brought together by The Children’s Hospital at Westmead to try and reduce the incidence of falls.

“I want to stress to strata managers that this is not a fanciful risk. Twelve children are admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead every year as a result of a balcony or window fall. You can probably double that if you take into account the children going to the Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick. And then there are the children outside of Sydney who go to other hospitals, John Hunter, Wollongong. So it’s not fanciful,” Ms Sherry said.

“The biggest problem is fly screens. No fly screen can support the weight of a child. Parents don’t perceive a window with a fly screen as an open window but unless they are specifically designed they can’t even support a baby’s weight.

“Part of the problem with apartments is the size. It’s difficult for families not to have furniture pushed up against windows. Most kids who fall are playing in the bedroom, climbing on the bed, or the tallboy, or chest of drawers. Living in an apartment you can’t just open the back door and tell the two-year-old to play within sight; it’s inevitable in apartments children will be playing inside.

In New South Wales, the Department of Health has started a campaign to warn people of the danger and provide them with practical advice on making their homes safer. Strata managers in New South Wales can order free resources such as posters and flyers which can be placed in common areas and handed out to residents.

The campaign also provides information on products which can be easily fitted to windows to prevent them opening too far thus preventing a child from falling out.

Recently, the Australian Building Codes Board ruled that all windows in new homes and apartments that are more than two metres off the ground must be either fitted with window locks that stop the window being opened more than 125mm, or must have reinforced screens. These changes will be included in the National Construction Code from May 2013.

More information on how to make your apartment safe, including the posters and flyers are available through the Kids Health website

www.kidshealth.chw.edu.au/projects/falls-windows-and-balconies<http://www.kidshealth.chw.edu.au/projects/falls-windows-and-balconies

Parts of this article were first published in Inside Strata, April 2011. 

Disclaimer: The information provided above is a general guide only and not intended as a substitute for legal advice. The company disclaims all responsibility and all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs which might be incurred as a result of the information provided by the company in this article.

Comments

# At 4:21am, July 6, 2015, Sara said:
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# At 10:56pm, July 27, 2015, Pamella said:
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# At 6:48am, October 18, 2015, Abdur said:
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# At 7:56pm, March 29, 2016, Darnesha said:
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# At 7:31am, August 1, 2016, Kaylea said:
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