Furniture and TV Tip-Over Hazards
"A TV can be a child’s best friend, but it also can be a parent’s worst enemy,” says the mother of a 3-year-old who was crushed by a television, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The watchdog organization recently published an 18-year study on the dangers of furniture tip-overs, including startling findings that should be heeded by parents.
Here are some facts and figures from the CPSC study:
- From 1990 to 2007, an average of nearly 15,000 children under 18 visited emergency rooms each year for injuries received from furniture tip-overs. The number shows a 40% increase in injury reports over the duration of the study, hinting that the problem is growing worse. About 300 fatalities were reported.
- Most injuries happened to children 6 and under, and resulted from televisions tipping over.
- The most severe injuries were head injuries and suffocation resulting from entrapment.
- More than 25% of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture.
- Most of the injured children were males under 7 who suffered blows to the head.
- The newer flat-screen TVs are not as front-heavy as the older, traditional TV sets, which means they may be less likely to tip over. Experts warn, however, that flat-screen TVs are still heavy to children, and they often have sharp, dangerous edges.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established standards for manufacturers that stipulate that dressers, chests of drawers, and armoires should be able to remain upright when any doors or all drawers are open two-thirds of the way, or when one drawer or door is opened and 50 pounds of weight are applied to the front, simulating a climbing child. In addition, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) requires units to be able to remain upright when placed on a 10-degree angle with 70 pounds on top to simulate the weight of a television. The ASTM and UL standards are voluntary, however, and many manufacturers cut corners to save money. And, despite efforts by the CPSC to enforce these standards, sub-standard furniture is still regularly sold at retail stores.
Parents can minimize the risks posed to their children from furniture tip-overs by practicing the following strategies:
- Supervise young children at all times.
- Place televisions low to the floor and near the very back of their stands.
- Strap televisions and furniture to the wall with heavy safety straps or L-brackets. Many of these devices do not require that any holes be drilled into furniture, and they can secure items up to 100 pounds.
- Heavy items, such as televisions, should be placed far back on a dresser rather than at the front edge, which would shift the center of gravity forward and make the whole assembly more likely to tip over. Ideally, the center of gravity for furniture should be as low as possible, with the furniture placed back against a wall.
- Only purchase furniture that has a solid base, wide legs, and otherwise feels stable.
- Install drawer stops that prevent drawers from opening to their full extent, as a full extension can cause a dangerous forward-shift in the center of gravity.
- Keep heavier items on lower shelves and in lower drawers.
- Never place items that may be attractive to children, such as toys, candy, or a remote control, on the top of a TV or piece of furniture that poses a tip-over hazard.
- Do not place heavy televisions on dressers or shelving units that were not designed to support such weight.
- Place electrical cords out of the reach of children, and teach kids not to play with them. A cord can be used to inadvertently pull a TV, and perhaps its supporting shelf, onto a child.
- Read the owners’ manuals and manufacturers’ instructions for your TV and furniture to learn about additional tips and hazards regarding their proper assembly and placement.
In summary, TVs and furniture can easily tip over and crush a small child if safety practices are not followed by parents.
Anti-tip brackets are metal devices designed to prevent freestanding ranges from tipping. They are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and are included in all installation kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath.
Homeowners can confirm the presence of anti-tip brackets through the following methods:
- It may be possible to see a wall-mounted bracket by looking over the rear of the range. Floormounted brackets are often hidden, although in some models with removable drawers, such as 30- inch electric ranges made by General Electric, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight can be used to search for the bracket. Homeowners should beware that a visual confirmation does not guarantee that the bracket has been properly installed.
- Homeowners can firmly grip the upper-rear section of the range and tip the unit. If equipped with an anti-tip bracket, the unit will not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. The range should be turned off, and all items should be removed from the stovetop before this action is performed. It is usually easier to detect a bracket by tipping the range than through a visual search. This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a bracket
If no anti-tip bracket is detected, homeowners should have them installed. They can contact the dealer or builder who installed their range and request that they install a bracket. If homeowners wish to install a bracket themselves, the part can be purchased at most hardware stores or ordered from a manufacturer. General Electric will send their customers an anti-tip bracket for free.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 143 incidents caused by range tip-overs from 1980 to 2006. Of the 33 incidents that resulted in death, most of those victims were children. A small child may stand on an open range door in order to see what is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly, too, may be injured while using the range for support while cleaning. Homeowners should never leave the oven door open while the oven is unattended.
In response to this danger, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors. Manufacturers' instructions, too, require that anti-tip brackets provided be installed. Despite these warnings, retail giant Sears estimated in 1999 that a mere 5% of the gas and electric units they sold were ever equipped with anti-tip brackets. As a result of Sears’ failure to comply with safety regulations, they were sued and subsequently required to secure ranges in nearly 4 million homes, a measure that has been speculated to have cost the company as much as $500 million.
In summary, ranges are susceptible to tipping and causing grave injury, especially to children, if they are not secured with anti-tip brackets.