Child Safety: 12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children
About 2.5 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices on the market today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use.
It’s important to follow installation instructions carefully.
In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember,too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops,supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogues.
Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children:
1. Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, as well as knives and other sharp objects.
Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but that are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away out of reach; this packaging is not childproof.
According to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), “Installing an ineffective latch on a cabinet is not an answer for helping parents with safety. It is important to understand parental habits and behavior. While a latch that loops around cabinet knob covers is not expensive and easy to install, most parents do not consistently re-latch it.” Parents should be sure to purchase and install safety products that they will actually adapt to and use.
2. Use safety gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas.
Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, gates that screw into the wall are more secure than “pressure gates.”
New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn’t have “V” shapes that are large enough for a child’s head and neck to fit into.
3. Use door locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers, including swimming pools.
To prevent access to swimming pools, door locks on safety gates should be placed high, out of reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and alarms. Sliding glass doors with locks that must be re-secured after each use are often not an effective barrier to pool access.
Door knob covers, while inexpensive and recommended by some, are generally not effective for children who are tall enough to reach the doorknob; a child’s ingenuity and persistence can usually trump the cover’s effectiveness.
4. Use anti-scald devices for faucets and showerheads, and set your water heater temperature to 120° F to help prevent burns from hot water. A plumber may need to install these.
5. Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms to alert you to fires. Smoke detectors are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check them once a month to make sure they’re working. If the detectors are battery-operated, replace the batteries at least once a year, or consider using 10-year batteries.
6. Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. These can help prevent serious injuries. Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are properly installed, secure and maintained. There should be no more than 4 inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in case of a fire. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from
falling out of windows.
7. Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against the sharp edges of furniture and fireplace hearths. Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely attached.
8. Use receptacle or outlet covers and plates to help prevent electrical shocks and possible electrocution. Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them if they do manage to remove them.
9. Use a carbon monoxide (CO) detector outside bedrooms to help prevent CO poisoning. Consumers should install CO detectors near sleeping areas in their homes. Households that should use CO detectors include those with gas or oil heat and those with attached garages.
10. Cut window blind cords to help prevent children from strangling in blind-cord loops. Window blind cord safety tassels on miniblinds and tension devices on vertical blinds and drapery cords can help prevent deaths and injuries from strangulation in the loops of the cords. Inner cord stops can help prevent strangulation in the inner cords of window blinds.However, the IAFCS’s Ms. Driscoll states, “Cordless is best. Although not all families are able to replace all products, it is important that parents understand that any corded blind or window treatment can still be a hazard. Unfortunately, children are still becoming entrapped in dangerous blind cords despite advances in safety in recent years.” For older miniblinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight.
When buying new miniblinds, vertical blinds and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation.
11. Use door stops and door holders to help prevent injuries to fingers and hands. Door stops and door holders on doors and door hinges can help prevent small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges.
Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and not likely to break into small parts, which could be a choking hazard for young children.
12. Use a cell or cordless phone to make it easier to continuously watch young children, especially when they’re in bathtubs, swimming pools, or other potentially dangerous areas. Cordless phones help you watch your child without leaving the vicinity to answer a phone call. Cordless phones are especially helpful when children are in or near water, whether it’s in the bathtub, the swimming pool, or at the beach.
In summary, there are a number of different safety devices that can be purchased to ensure the safety of children in the home. Homeowners can ask their Certified Master Inspector about these and other safety measures during their next inspection. Parents should be sure to do their own consumer research to find the most effective safety devices for their home that are age-appropriate for their children’s protection, as well as affordable and compatible with their household habits and lifestyles.Crib Safety
Baby cribs, especially hand-me-down and homemade models, can pose serious hazards to young children, including strangulation, entrapment, and overheating. Government manufacturing standards set in 1973 have greatly improved crib safety, yet defective cribs continue to be responsible for the highest child injury rates of any nursery item. In fact, approximately 50 infants each year are killed and
another 9,000 are injured in crib-related accidents in the U.S. To prevent an avoidable tragedy, parents should check their child’s crib to ensure against the following defects:
Screws, bolts and hardware should not be missing, broken or loose.
Slats cannot be more than 2-3/8 inches apart,which is about the width of a soda can, and none of them should be loose or broken.
Older cribs are especially prone to this defect.
The corner posts cannot extend more than 1/16-inch above the headboard and
footboard. The mattress must be firm, and it should fit snugly inside the crib so that it does not easily release from the posts. This prevents the baby from getting stuck between the mattress and the crib.
Check the crib’s overall condition. Look for any sharp points or edges (such as those on
protruding rivets, nuts, bolts and knobs), and any wood surfaces that have splits, splinters or cracks.
Lead paint was outlawed in the United States in 1978, so painted cribs made before this year should be tested for lead, or avoided altogether.
There should be no decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard in which the baby’s head or limbs could get trapped.
Decorative knobs and corner posts should not be higher than 1/16-inch so that a baby’s clothing cannot catch on them.The baby should sleep in a sleeper, as opposed to a blanket. Soft bedding and blankets are suffocation hazards. They may also cause the baby to overheat, so it’s best to remove all pillows, comforters and quilts from the crib.
If the crib has ribbons or bows, make sure they are tightly fastened, and no longer than 8 inches. Mobiles are for looking at, not touching. Their parts present a choking hazard and can cause the baby to become entangled. Make sure your baby cannot reach the mobile, and when he is old enough to crawl, the mobile should be removed from the crib. While newer mobiles are designed so that they cannot be reached, the risks still exist for older mobiles, homemade mobiles, and mobiles not specifically designed for cribs.
Cribs that were manufactured between 2000 and 2009 may be included in a voluntary recall issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in June 2010. Seven firms will provide consumers with free repair kits to remedy more than 2 million defective cribs, and they advise consumers not to attempt to fix these cribs using homemade remedies. Consumers should contact manufacturers directly to learn the appropriate remedy. These manufacturers are listed below, along with the number
of cribs they recalled:
750,000 Jenny Lind drop-side cribs distributed by Evenflo, Inc.;
747,000 Delta drop-side cribs. Delta is also urging parents to check all fixed and drop-side cribs that use wooden stabilizer bars to support the mattress. The company says that the bars can be inadvertently installed upside-down, causing the mattress platform to collapse;
306,000 Bonavita, Babi Italia, and ISSI drop-side cribs manufactured by LaJobi, Inc.;
130,000 Jardine drop-side cribs imported and sold by ToysRUs®;
156,000 Million Dollar Baby drop-side cribs;
50,000 Simmons® drop-side cribs; and
40,000 to 50,000 Child Craft™ brand (now Foundations Worldwide, Inc.) stationary-side cribs,and an unknown number of drop-side cribs.
In summary, parents should ensure a safe sleeping environment for their young children by learning about defective conditions commonly found with cribs
Furniture and TV Tip-Over Hazards
“A TV can be a child’s best friend, but it also can be a parent’s worst enemy,” says the mother of a 3-year-old who was crushed by a television,
according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The watchdog organization recently published an 18-year study on the dangers of furniture tip-overs, including startling findings that should be heeded by parents. Here are some facts and figures from the CPSC study:
From 1990 to 2007, an average of nearly 15,000 children under 18 visited emergency rooms each year for injuries received from furniture tip-overs. The number shows a 40% increase in injury reports over the duration of the study, hinting that the problem is growing worse. About 300 fatalities were reported.
Most injuries happened to children 6 and under, and resulted from televisions
- The most severe injuries were head injuries and suffocation resulting from entrapment.
- More than 25% of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture.
- Most of the injured children were males under 7 who suffered blows to the head.
The newer flat-screen TVs are not as front-heavy as the older, traditional TV sets, which means they may be less likely to tip over. Experts warn, however, that flat-screen TVs are still heavy to children, and they often have sharp, dangerous edges.
- In 2006, Pier 1 Imports® announced the recall 4,300 TV stands after one of them was involved in the accidental death of a child in Canada.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established standards for manufacturers that stipulate that dressers, chests of drawers, and armoires should be able to remain upright when any doors or all drawers are open two-thirds of the way, or when one drawer or door is opened and 50 pounds of weight are applied to the front, simulating a climbing child.
- In addition, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) requires units to be able to remain upright when placed on a 10-degree angle with 70 pounds on top to simulate the weight of a television.
- The ASTM and UL standards are voluntary, however, and many manufacturers cut corners to save money. And, despite efforts by the CPSC to enforce these standards, sub-standard furniture is still regularly sold at retail stores.
Parents can minimize the risks posed to their children from furniture tip-overs by practicing the following strategies:
- Supervise young children at all times.
- Place televisions low to the floor and near the very back of their stands.
- Strap televisions and furniture to the wall with heavy safety straps or L-brackets. Many of these devices do not require that any holes be drilled into furniture, and they can secure items up to 100 pounds.
Heavy items, such as televisions, should be placed far back on a dresser rather than at the front edge, which would shift the center of gravity forward and make the whole assembly more likely to tip over. Ideally, the center of gravity for furniture should be as low as possible, with the furniture placed back against a wall.
- Only purchase furniture that has a solid base, wide legs, and otherwise feels stable.
- Install drawer stops that prevent drawers from opening to their full extent, as a full extension can cause a dangerous forward-shift in the center of gravity.
- Keep heavier items on lower shelves and in lower drawers.
- Never place items that may be attractive to children, such as toys, candy, or a remote control, on the top of a TV or piece of furniture that poses a tip-over hazard.
- Do not place heavy televisions on dressers or shelving units that were not designed to support such weight.
Place electrical cords out of the reach of children, and teach kids not to play with them. A cord can be used to inadvertently pull a TV, and perhaps its supporting shelf, onto a child.
- Read the owners’ manuals and manufacturers’ instructions for your TV and furniture to learn about additional tips and hazards regarding their proper assembly and placement.
In summary, TVs and furniture can easily tip over and crush a small child if safety practices are not followed by parents.
Anti-Tip Brackets Anti-tip brackets are metal devices designed to prevent
freestanding ranges from tipping. They are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and are included in all installation
kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small
child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath.
Homeowners can confirm the presence of anti-tip brackets through the following methods:
It may be possible to see a wall-mounted bracket by looking over the rear of the range. Floor mounted brackets are often hidden, although in some models with removable drawers, such as 30-inch electric ranges made by General Electric, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight can be used to search for the bracket. Homeowners should beware that a visual confirmation does not guarantee that the bracket has been properly installed. Homeowners can firmly grip the upper-rear section of the range and tip the unit. If equipped with an anti-tip bracket, the unit will not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. The range should be turned off, and all items should be removed from the stove top before this action is performed. It is usually easier to detect a bracket by tipping the range than through a visual search.
This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a bracket. If no anti-tip bracket is detected, homeowners should have them installed. They can contact the dealer or builder who installed their range and request that they
install a bracket. If homeowners wish to install a bracket themselves, the part can be purchased at most hardware stores or ordered from a manufacturer.
General Electric will send their customers an anti-tip bracket for free.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 143 incidents caused by range tip-overs from 1980 to 2006. Of the 33 incidents that resulted in death, most of those victims were children. A small child may stand on an open range door in order to see what is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly, too, may be injured while using the range for support
while cleaning. Homeowners should never leave the oven door open while the oven is unattended In response to this danger, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors. Manufacturers’
instructions, too, require that anti-tip brackets provided be installed. Despite these warnings, retail giant Sears estimated in 1999 that a mere 5% of the gas and electric units they sold were ever equipped with anti-tip brackets. As a result of Sears’ failure to comply with safety regulations, they were sued and subsequently required to secure ranges in nearly 4 million homes, a measure that has been speculated
to have cost the company as much as $500 million.
In summary, ranges are susceptible to tipping and causing grave injury, especially to children, if they are not secured with anti-tip brackets.
Every year, roughly 2.5 million children in the United States are treated for fall-related injuries. Of these, falls from windows tend to be the most serious and fatal, especially among male toddlers. Older children are more likely to be seriously injured by window falls as summer approaches and they spend more time around the home. This problem is heightened by the fact that windows are left open for ventilation more often during the summer months than the rest of the year.
Tips for Homeowners:
When ventilation is not needed, windows should be closed and locked.
Windows can be equipped with window guards to prevent children from falling out. In some jurisdictions, such as New York City, window guards are required in apartments where children reside. These devices are constructed of horizontal bars spaced close enough together so that a 5-inch ball cannot pass through. Proper window guard placement can be determined by the local building code official or the local fire department. Window guards should include a quick release mechanism to allow for a rapid exit in case of an emergency, such as a fire.
Furniture that children can climb, such as dressers, beds and toy chests, should be kept away from windows. Window screens are designed to keep insects outside of the house and should not be relied upon to keep children from falling out of windows.
Shrubs, wood chips, grass and other soft materials may be strategically placed beneath windows in order to lessen the degree of injury sustained from falls.
Children’s play areas should be kept away from open windows.
If possible, ventilation should come from the upper sash of a double-hung window rather than the lower sash, which may be more accessible to a child.
Windows that are low to the floor may be particularly easy for young children to operate.
In summary, homeowners can protect their children from window falls by learning some basic facts about window safety.
- Safety Glass
Safety glass is a stronger, safer version of ordinary glass. It is often used in locations where harm due to breakage is likely, such as in cars and low windows.
It is found in the following two forms:
- Laminated safety glass is commonly found in car windshields. It is produced by
bonding a resin or a thin, transparent plastic film, known as PVB, between
multiple sheets of ordinary glass. When shattered, this type of glass will adhere to
the plastic sheet and be held in place. Laminated safety glass is effective in blocking most ultraviolet radiation, as well as sound, and it’s also used in cutting boards, thermometers, and bullet-resistant bank windows.
Tempered safety glass fractures parallel to its edge rather than perpendicular, and when it shatters, it breaks into small, rounded, generally safe pieces. It is created by heating glass to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to produce compression stress fractures on the surface, while retaining tension in the center. The glass is several times stronger as a result of the process, and it can withstand significantly higher temperatures. Tempered safety glass is commonly found in rear and side car windows, computer monitors, and storm doors. Unlike
laminated safety glass, it cannot be custom-cut once it is formed.
- Where in a home might you find it?
Laminated glass may sometimes be found in shower enclosures, but it’s generally uncommon in homes.Tempered glass appears more often and can be found in storm doors, skylights, sliding glass doors, and unsafe locations. Safety glass should be found in locations considered to be, according to the 2006
version of the International Residential Code (IRC), “subject to human impact.” It describes these locations, as well as their exceptions, in “R308.4 – Hazardous locations” under “Section R308 – Glazing”
as the following:
- R308.4: The Following Shall Be Considered Specific Hazardous Locations for the Purposes of Glazing:
- 1. Glazing in swinging doors except jalousies.
- 2. Glazing in fixed and sliding panels of sliding door assemblies, and panels in sliding and bifold closet door assemblies.
- 3. Glazing in storm doors.
- 4. Glazing in all unframed swinging doors.
- 5. Glazing in doors and enclosures for hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, bathtubs, and showers. Glazing in any part of a building wall enclosing these compartments where the bottom exposed edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches measured vertically above any standing or walking surface.
- 6. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel adjacent to a door where the nearest vertical edge is within a 24-inch arc of the door in a closed position and whose bottom edge is less than 60 inches above the floor or walking surface.
- 7. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel, other than those locations described in Items 5 and 6 above, that meets all of the following conditions:
7.1. Exposed area of an individual pane larger than 9 square feet.
7.2. Bottom edge less than 18 inches above the floor.
7.3. Top edge more than 36 inches above the floor.
7.4. One or more walking surfaces within 36 inches horizontally of the glazing.
- 8. All glazing in railings regardless of an area or height above a walking surface. Included are structural baluster panels and nonstructural infill panels.
- 9. Glazing in walls and fences enclosing indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas where the bottom edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches above a walking surface and within 60 inches horizontally of the water’s edge. This shall apply to single glazing and all panes in multiple glazing.
- 10. Glazing adjacent to stairways, landings and ramps within 36 inches horizontally of a walking surface when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches above the plane of the adjacent walking surface.
- 11. Glazing adjacent to stairways within 60 inches horizontally of the bottom tread of a stairway in any direction when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches above the nose of the tread.
Exception: The following products, materials and uses are exempt from the above hazardous locations:
1. Openings in doors through which a 3-inch sphere is unable to pass.
2. Glazing in Section R308.4, Items 1, 6, or 7, in decorative glass.
3. Glazing in Section R308.4, Item 6, when there is an intervening wall or other permanent barrier between the door and the glazing.
4. Glazing in Section R308.4, Item 6, in walls perpendicular to the plane of the door in a closed position, other than the wall toward which the door swings when opened, or where access through the door is to a closet or storage area 3 feet or less in depth.
- Glazing in these applications shall comply with Section R308.4, Item 7.5.
- Glazing in Section R308.4, Items 7 and 10, when a protective bar is installed on the accessible side(s) of the glazing 36 inches ± 2 inches above the floor. The bar shall be capable of withstanding a horizontal load of 50 pounds per linear foot without contacting the glass and be a minimum of 1-1/2 inches in height.
6. Outboard panes in insulating glass units and other multiple glazed panels in Section R308.4, Item 7, when the bottom edge of the glass is 25 feet or more above grade, a roof, walking surface, or other horizontal surfaces within 45 degrees of a horizontal surface adjacent to the glass exterior.
7. Louvered windows and jalousies complying with the requirements of Section R308.2.
8. Mirrors and other glass panels mounted or hung on a surface that provides a continuous backing support.
9. Safety glazing in Section R308.4, Items 10 and 11, is not required where:
9.1. the side of a stairway, landing or ramp has a guardrail or handrail, including balusters or infill panels, complying with the provisions of the handrail and guardrail requirements; and
9.2. the plane of the glass is more than 18 inches from the railing; or
9.3. when a solid wall or panel extends from the plane of the adjacent walking surface to 34 inches to 36 inches above the floor and the construction at the top of that wall or panel is capable of withstanding the same horizontal load as the protective bar.
10. Glass block panels complying with Section R610.
How do you identify safety glass?
If safety glass is not specifically labeled as such, there are often signs that aid in its identification. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to identify ordinary glass with certainty without breaking it.
According to the IRC, tempered glass must contain an identifying label. It states that a label must be “acid-etched, sandblasted, ceramic-fired, laser-etched, embossed, or be of a type which, once applied,cannot be removed without being destroyed.” Tempered spandrel glass, an opaque glass found in
commercial curtain walls, is exempt from this rule because an etched label can cause the entire panel to fracture.
Of multipane assemblies containing safety glass, the IRC states the following:
- R308.1.1 Identification of multipane assemblies.
- Multipane assemblies having individual panes not exceeding 1 square foot in exposed area shall have at least one pane in the assembly identified in
accordance with Section R308.1.
- All other panes in the assembly shall be labeled “16CFR1201.”
Section R308.1 details identification as follows:
R308.1 Identification. Except as indicated in Section R308.1.1, each pane of glazing installed in hazardous locations as defined in Section R308.4 shall be provided with a manufacturer’s or installer’s label designating the type and thickness of glass and the safety glazing standard with which it
complies, which is visible in the final installation. The label shall be acid-etched, sandblasted, ceramicfired, embossed-mark, or shall be of a type which, once applied, cannot be removed without being
Country-specific laws similarly require a permanent label on most or all safety glass. In the UK, for instance, tempered glass must include a “T,” and laminated glass must include an “L.” New Zealand requires, according to Clause 303.7 of NZS 4223:Part3:1999, that all safety glass have a label at the bottom that includes the following information:
(a) the name and registered trademark or code of the manufacturer or supplier;
(b) the type of safety glazing material. This may be in the form of a code, such as “T” for toughened glass, or “L” for laminated glass, as indicated by the relevant test Standard (refer to AS/NZS 2208);
(c) the Standard to which the safety glazing material has been tested, e.g. AS/NZS 2208;
(d) if applicable, the classification relating to impact test behaviour, i.e., A for Grade A, B for Grade B, or C for Grade C.
Laminated safety glass is often labeled, although codes do not always require it to be. An easy way to tell if unlabeled glass is laminated is by examining the reflection of your hand or some other object. As there are two pieces of glass, you should see two different images, but you must be careful not to
confuse them with the inner and outer surfaces of a single sheet of ordinary glass. Laminated glass is also slightly thicker than ordinary glass, although this difference is difficult to discern without the aid of very precise measuring instruments.
Tempered glass can also be identified through polarized glasses when viewed from an angle. Black lines, a result of the heating and cooling process, should appear as your angle from the glass surface increases and you approach the glass’s side.
When uncertain, homeowners should always assume that glass is not safety glass.
- Child-Proofing Windows and Stairs
The number one hazard for children is falls, which are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for children in the U.S. About 8,000 youngsters wind up in emergency rooms every day for injuries related to falling, adding up to almost 2.8 million per year. With those statistics in mind, it is worth looking at what can be done to prevent such injuries in the home.
In trying to fathom how so many children can be injured on a daily basis from something as simple as slipping and falling, we need to consider an important factor, which is height. Oftentimes, when observing small children at play, we are amazed at their dexterity and ability to take what looks like a fairly serious tumble and hop right back up, unfazed. Likewise, a slip or fall for most adults, more often
than not, leads to little more than a poorly chosen expletive being uttered. However, imagine a small child falling a distance equivalent to the average height of an adult, and we begin to see where the danger lies. With this to consider, let’s take a closer look at two of the most important areas to childproof in a home: windows and staircases.
The first thing that probably comes to mind when examining child safety in relation to stairways and staircases is a safety gate, and with good reason: falling down stairs can be a serious hazard for an infant or toddler who is just learning to navigate his or her surroundings. When properly installed, high quality safety gates can help eliminate this possibility.
A safety gate is a gate that is temporarily installed in a door or stairway. It allows adults to unlock and pass, but small children will be unable to open it. There are two basic types of gates which differ in the way they are installed. The first type is a pressure-mounted gate. These safety gates are fixed in place by pressure against walls or a doorway. They can be used in doorways between rooms, such as for keeping crawling babies out of a kitchen during cooking, but they are not suitable for keeping kids out of other areas, such as the top of a stairway, where falling could be a risk.
The other type of safety gate, which is recommended specifically for stairways, is hardware-mounted.
These gates mount solidly in place with screws but are still easily removable for times when they are unnecessary. A hardware-mounted safety gate will prevent small children from entering stairways where accidents could occur.
When choosing a safety gate, you can refer to established ASTM standards for these products, and some
manufacturers also participate in a certification program administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Any gate you choose should meet the ASTM standards, which will ensure that the gate itself poses no hazard to the child. Products that comply with these standards have
a sticker on the packaging or on the unit itself.
For parents of children who have outgrown the need for safety gates but are still small and curious, especially those prone to climbing on things, baluster spacing on the handrail becomes a concern. A stairway with four or more risers should have a continuous handrail not lower than 34 inches or taller than 38 inches on at least one side, with balustrades not more than 4 inches apart from each other. If
there are spaces between vertical rails or risers that will allow an object larger than 4 inches to pass between them, this should be considered a safety hazard to a child who may try to climb on the railing and may get stuck between the balusters or spaces between the railing and risers.
If the dangers associated with falling are compounded by the height of the fall, then windows can present an even greater concern than stairways. It is estimated that more than 4,000 children are treated every year in emergency rooms for injuries sustained by falling from windows. There have been at least 120 such deaths reported since 1990. Risk of injury from window-related accidents in the home can be minimized by addressing several common issues.
The first and simplest thing to do is to ensure that there is no furniture situated in areas that would make it easy for a child to reach and open or close a window. Any furniture a child could potentially climb on should be moved away from windows.
Latches, Stops and Guards
As children begin to grow to heights where they may be able to access windows from a standing position, it is important to install secure, child-proof latches. There are many types of window latches that, similar to safety gates, will allow an adult to easily open and close the windows, but will prevent kids from doing the same.
Also available are window stops, which will not allow the window to be opened wider than a predetermined width. The recommended opening, similar to balustrade spacing, should not exceed 4 inches. This eliminates the possibility of a child or one of his limbs to pass through. These stops are easily removable by an adult whenever necessary.
An additional option to consider is a window guard. A window guard can be vertical or horizontal. It attaches to a frame and can be removed by an adult, but will deter a child. Guards have some form of bars or beams across them, which should be no more than 4 inches apart. Window guards maintain the
functionality of the window while ensuring a child’s safety when the window is open. However, even with a guard installed, kids should not be allowed to play around windows, whether they are open or closed. Try to open windows only from the top, if possible. And never rely on window screens to keep a
child from falling through the window, as that is not the function they are designed for.
With some foresight, a few clever and fairly inexpensive products, and proper adherence to building codes, the risk of injury from falling can be successfully minimized. Your Certified Master Inspector® can assess the safety issues in your home and advise you on the most effective childproofing measures to
keep your family safe.
Garage Doors and Openers
Garage doors are large, spring-supported doors. Garage door openers control the opening and closing of garage doors, either through a wall-mounted switch or a radio transmitter. Due to the strain that garage door components and openers regularly endure, they may become defective over time and need to be
fixed or replaced. Defective components may create safety hazards as well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly.
The following facts demonstrate the dangers posed by garage doors:
Garage doors are typically among the heaviest moving objects in the home and are held under high tension.
Injuries caused by garage doors account for approximately 20,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The majority of the injuries caused by garage doors are the result of pinched fingers, although severe injuries and deaths due to entrapment occur as well. Sixty children have been killed since 1982 as a result of garage doors that did not automatically reverse upon contact.
Methods for testing the automatic reverse system:
1. This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and applying upward resistance. Homeowners should use caution while performing this test because they may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course.
2. Some sources recommend placing a 2×4 piece of wood on the ground beneath the door, although there have been instances where this testing method has damaged the door or door opener components.
3. Using a supplemental automatic-reverse system. Garage doors manufactured in the U.S. after 1992 must be equipped with photoelectric sensors or a door edge sensor, such as the following:
a. Photo-electric eyes (also known as photo-electric sensors) are located at the base of each side of the garage door and emit and detect beams of light. If this beam is broken, it will cause the door to immediately reverse direction and open. For safety reasons,photo sensors must be installed a maximum of 6 inches above the standing surface.
b. A door edge sensor is a pressure-sensitive strip installed at the base of the garage door.
If it senses pressure from an object while the door is closing, it will cause the door to reverse. Door edge sensors are not as common in garage door systems as photo-electric eyes.
Safety Advice for Homeowners:
Homeowners should not attempt to adjust or repair springs themselves. The springs are held under extremely high tension and can snap suddenly and forcefully, causing serious or fatal injury.
No one should stand or walk beneath a garage door while it is in motion. Adults should set an example for children and teach them about garage door safety. Children should not be permitted to operate the garage door opener push button and should be warned against touching any of the door’s moving parts.
Fingers and hands should be kept away from pulleys, hinges, springs, and the intersecting points between door panels. Closing doors can very easily crush body parts that get between them.
The automatic reversal system may need to be adjusted for cold temperatures, since the flexibility of the springs is affected by temperature. This adjustment can be made from a dial on the garage door opener, which should be changed only by a trained garage door technician.
In summary, garage doors and their openers can be hazardous if certain components are missing or defective, or if people fail to use caution while around them during operation.
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