Each year, more than 50 children fall from windows or balconies in Australia. Many suffer serious injuries while some of these falls are even fatal.
These falls often occur in the children’s own home, especially during the warmer months when windows and balcony doors are left open. Children aged between one and five are most at risk as they are naturally curious but lack the ability to recognise danger.
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. By 2018 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 (approx. 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 NSW Government allows individual strata owners to install window safety devices regardless of their scheme’s by-laws and made changes to the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010 to include window safety devices in the prescribed condition report for rental premises.
The child window safety requirements for owners’ corporations have applied since 11 December 2013, but if the requirements have not been met by 13 March 2018, owners corporations will risk being fined.
While there are no laws that require window and balustrade openings in older buildings to meet current building standards, there are ways to improve safety.
Accident information obtained by CHW from parents of injured children presenting to the hospital found that a number of factors contributed to the incidents. Some examples include; playing in a bedroom with a sibling or left unattended; climbing onto furniture and pushing an insect screen or opened window and losing balance while sitting on a window sill.
The report concludes that in the majority of cases, both the actions of the child or parent (e.g. placing furniture near open windows), in conjunction with specific building components (i.e. a low sill), contributed to the incidents. In particular, placing furniture near a window that isn’t fitted with a latching or locking safety device, was identified as 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 code. Older buildings are often built with low sills, built in window seats and balustrading that may be easy for children to climb on.
To prevent falls from windows, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead recommends that all windows above the ground floor to be opened no more than 12.5cm and that they be fitted with window locks/latches to stop them opening more than 12.5cm, or guards to protect the opening.
The hospital also advises that where possible, windows be opened from the top; furniture be kept away from windows; parents do not rely on flyscreens to prevent a child falling out of a window; children are taught to play away from a window and that children always be supervised.
Lock & Roll can provide some relatively simple solutions to ensure your home is safe, secure and comfortable. To eliminate the possibility of falling out of a window, Lock & Roll technicians can install window restrictors to meet the requirements.
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