THE DANGER BEHIND EVERY WINDOW
An increasing number of children are being admitted to hospital each year with serious injuries after suffering falls from windows and balconies.
According to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW), children aged from one to five years old are at risk as they’re naturally curious, but lack the ability to judge potentially dangerous situations.
“Fall incidents peak in the summer period, which can be attributed primarily to the warmer weather allowing or requiring windows to be open, as well as an increased level of outdoor activity. This can lead to an increased risk of falls from windows, balconies and decks,” says Dom Galluccio, General Manager, Lock & Roll.
Some of these falls documented have been from quite a height, with a high proportion falling from windows and balconies on the first and second floor, as well as through insect screens – as some children don’t understand that a fly screen may not be able to hold their weight.
Both the actions of the child or parent (e.g. placing furniture near open windows), in conjunction with specific building components (e.g. a low sill), can contribute to these incidents. In particular, placing furniture near a window that isn’t fitted with a latching or locking safety device is a significant child safety issue.
Older buildings may also present a higher risk, as they may not have safety features that are required by today’s safety building codes. Older buildings are often built with low sills, builtin window seats and balustrading that may be easy for children to climb on.
To eliminate the possibility of falling out of a window, Lock & Roll can install stainless steel safety restrictors to meet the required Building Code standards. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) allows a maximum opening of less than 12.5cm (representing the size of a young child’s head) for windows and balustrades, but the code is not generally applied retrospectively to existing buildings.
The NSW Government requires strata schemes with residential lots to install safety devices on all bedroom windows that present a risk to young children. This year, all state managed sites will be required to have made these modifications to adhere to the strata act and meet BCA requirements.
An openable window needs a safety device if the lowest part of the window is less than 1.7m above the floor and the external floor under the window is 2m or more above the outside surface. These safety devices must be able to limit the maximum window opening to less than 12.5cm against 250 newtons of force (approximately 25kg). They also must be robust and childproof. Suitable window safety devices would include window locks or safety screens, but not ordinary insect screens.
The number of children admitted to hospital each year with serious injuries after suffering falls is alarming. More alarming is that these injuries are increasing, despite being preventable. Homeowners and the strata community can act now to slow these occurrences and potentially save lives in the future.
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