NSW Fair Trading and other consumer affairs agencies across the country have launched a campaign to ensure parents and carers know how to protect their children and prevent a serious accident from toppling furniture and TVs.

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner, Rod Stowe, has highlighted the importance of this campaign.

‘Small children are inquisitive and adventurous and they love to explore.Freestanding bookcases, drawers, wardrobes and sideboards are low enough for children to reach and climb,’ says Commissioner Stowe.

‘If furniture is unstable or not properly secured, the child’s weight may cause it, or items placed on top, to topple over and injure the child.’

The Australian Furniture Association (AFA) continues to push for stronger legislation following the death of another child as a result of toppling furniture.

The issue of furniture and television tip over continues to cause great concern and follows on from reports in April this year related to similar incidents with some models of IKEA furniture and the subsequent $50 million payout in December to three families in the US as a result of their children being killed by toppling IKEA furniture.

‘The AFA is aware of several similar tragic incidents in recent years and is working closely with a number of compliance organisations and government to help protect consumers and prevent more injuries or deaths,’ says AFA CEO, Patrizia Torelli.

‘Every time we hear of another death or injury, particularly in the case of children, the impact is felt across the entire community.

Our industry is constantly working to improve to mitigate these risks and help educate the wider community on simple ways to avert these tragedies.

More importantly, we need to raise consumer awareness of how to buy and use furniture safely, both in the home or the workplace. There are many instances of household furniture being used in commercial settings, for example chests of drawers in childcare centres, where the risks may be higher.

Australia has the best standards for Australian consumers yet we are constantly sold on standards that are not compliant with Australian consumer expectations.

Furniture designers, manufacturers, suppliers and retailers have a responsibility to consumers and should adhere to appropriate standards to reduce the danger of unstable furniture.’

The AFA recommends the following:

Top Tips to Buy safe

* Only buy from reputable and knowledgeable suppliers and retailers

* Look for the Australian Furniture Association Members mark

* Check that furniture meets AUSTRALIAN Standards NOT other international standards

* Do not buy furniture designed for commercial use and use it in domestic environments and visa a versa

* Look for furniture that comes with safety information or equipment for anchoring to walls.

Top Tips to Use safe

* Conduct a Health Check of the furniture in your home or workplace

* Test the furniture – make sure it is stable. For example, pull out top drawers of a chest of drawers and apply a little pressure to see how stable it is; make sure the drawers do not fall out easily.

* Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.

* Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.

* Place televisions at the back of cabinets or secure them to the wall and ensure furniture is fit for purpose and compatible eg: Television cabinets designed for the size of the TV screen and anchored accordingly

* Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.

* Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that tempts children to climb up and reach.

* Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.

* Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.

‘The AFA recommends consumers look for the AFA approved ‘Warning Labels’ when making furniture purchases,’ continues Ms Torelli. ‘Our industry members do work hard to ensure the safety of the products and the labels provide consumers with a sense of reassurance that careful consideration has been given to the purpose and use of the furniture.’

What to look for

Look for the AFA Member approved Warning Labels as specified in AS/NZS 4935. If you’re not sure, then contact the AFA at www.australianfurniture.org.au

‘We strongly encourage consumers to check out the ACCC’s Safety tips and watch the safety video ‘Anchor it and Protect a Child’,’ says Ms Torelli. ‘Every life is valuable and the more information that is available to help avoid the pain and suffering of another Australian family is absolutely imperative.’

FAQS – Injuries and deaths

* At least 15 children under nine years old have died in Australia since 2000 after domestic furniture fell on them. This is around one death per year. (Source: National Coronial Information System)

* The Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU), Monash University recorded 909 emergency department visits in Victoria during January 2006 – June 2014 for injuries related to furniture tip-overs.

Of these injuries:

* half were to children four years old and under

* 80% of incidents occurred in the home.

* The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit (QISU), Mater Health Service identified 1,032 cases during 1999-2013 where a child under 5 years old was injured by furniture or appliances tipping over.

Of these cases:

* the three most common furniture items were chairs, chest of drawers/tallboys and tables/benches/desks

* the most common electrical appliance by far was the television

* the three most commonly identified places the injuries happened were living/dining areas, bedrooms and family/rumpus rooms.

Small children tend to climb on furniture such as freestanding bookcases, drawers, wardrobes and sideboards, and if the furniture is unsecured the child’s weight can cause it to topple.

Falling furniture can not only strike a child but can trap and crush them underneath, causing the child to suffocate.

For enquiries relating to this and other compliance matters, consumers and suppliers can contact the AFA on +61 3 86914244 or email reception@australianfurniture.org.au

To read more visit: http://www.kidspot.com.au/parenting/real-life/in-the-news/toddler-killed-in-tragic-bookcase-accident-in-victoria

ACCC Fact Card –http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1014170/fromItemId/1013969

For information on AFRDI Testing and certification (AS/NZS 4935;2009) http://www.furntech.org.au/

For more information contact: Australasian Furnishing Association via email care@australianfurniture.org.au