Off-the-Job Safety: Preventing Injuries from Furniture Tip-Overs

While furniture or televisions might not seem like likely sources of at-home danger, children often are injured when these items tip over. A recent study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that from 1990-2007, an average of nearly 15,000 children younger than 18 years of age visited emergency departments annually for injuries received from furniture tip-overs.

According to the study, published in the online issue of Clinical Pediatrics in May, most furniture tip-over-related injuries occurred among children younger than 7 years of age and resulted from televisions tipping over. More than one quarter of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture. Children ages 10-17 years were more likely to suffer injuries from desks, cabinets or bookshelves tipping over. Head and neck injuries were most common among younger children, while children older than 9 years were more likely to suffer injuries to the lower body.

Despite warnings from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of injuries involving televisions and other furniture tipping over onto children has increased in this country since the early 1990s.

“There was a more than 40 percent increase in the number of injuries during the study period, and the injury rate also significantly increased during these years,” said study senior author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy http://www.injurycenter.org at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “This trend demonstrates the inadequacy of current prevention strategies and underscores the need for increased prevention efforts.”

Solutions

Parents can minimize risks to children in several ways:

  • Place televisions low to the ground and near the back of their stands.
  • Strap televisions and furniture to the wall with safety straps or L-brackets.
  • Purchase furniture with wide legs or with solid bases.
  • Install drawer stops on chests of drawers.
  • Place heavy items close to the floor on shelves.
  • Reduce a child’s desire to climb furniture by not placing attractive items, such as toys or the remote control, high on top of furniture or the television.

“Pediatricians and child caregivers should be aware that furniture tip-overs are an important source of childhood injury,” said Smith, also a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Following a few simple prevention steps will decrease the number of injuries to children associated with furniture tip-overs.”

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