The number of children being injured or killed by tipping furniture over has increased, leading researchers to advocate stronger prevention strategies. About 40 children visit hospital emergency rooms each day because of furniture tip-over accidents, according to research done by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The recent study on furniture-related injuries shows a 40-percent increase since the 1990s.
"What that tells us is that whatever we’re doing in terms of prevention is not enough," says Dr. Gary Smith, director of the center. "We need to come up with new strategies, because this is preventable."
Research shows these injuries are primarily a problem among younger children: 75 percent of the injuries were to children age 7 and younger and the deaths were mostly children under 4. Head injury and suffocation were the primary causes of injury and death, and the furniture most likely to tip over is a television.
While Smith says parents should secure large furniture, especially TVs, to the wall, he also recommends improvements in furniture safety by manufacturers. Parents would be more likely to install safety equipment if it came with the furniture, Smith says. This could include safety straps or brackets for TVs and bookshelves and drawer stops for dressers.
To prevent injury in your home, Smith recommends buying and installing strong Velcro straps that can secure televisions to the wall or to a secure TV stand. Other furniture, such as a bookshelf, can be secured with metal brackets attached to the wall. Dressers should have drawer stops that prevent the drawers from being opened more than three-fourths of the way unless you reach in and adjust the stop.
Don’t place items on top of TVs or on the upper shelves of bookshelves—these might entice children to climb or reach up to grasp the object.
Most important of all is preventing accidents before they can occur, Smith says. "These injuries happen in seconds. You’re out of the room five seconds and the crash occurs," he says. "That’s why this has to be done ahead of time."