Despite substantial efforts to raise awareness about the risks associated with furniture tip-over accidents, a new report indicates that someone in the United States is injured every 17 minutes by a falling piece of furniture, a television or an appliance, highlighting the need for mandatory safety standards.
According to a new furniture tip-over investigation released late last week by the consumer watchdog group Consumer Reports, the furniture industry’s voluntary standards for preventing tip-over problems are weak, and leave many children at risk of becoming trapped or crushed by unstable and unanchored pieces of furniture.
Furniture tip-over problems are among the top hidden hazards in the home, and have caused at least 430 deaths over the last 13 years. Approximately 38,000 emergency room visits occur each year due to furniture tip-over injuries, according to information collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Currently, there are no mandatory standards which furniture manufacturers must follow when designing furniture to help prevent them from tipping over, only recommended safety standards.
The voluntary standards encourage manufacturers to design dressers and other pieces of furniture measuring over 30 inches tall to be able to withstand holding 50 pounds on each dresser drawer when it is extended without tipping over, however Consumer Reports claims this recommended tip-over weight does not represent the actual weight of the children who are most hurt by tip-over incidents.
Researchers from the group launched an investigation to assess the stability of a variety of dresser brands sold in the U.S. market to determine whether manufacturers are following the recommended 50 pound weight limit and found that many of them passed the test. However, researchers from Consumer Reports are asking that the safety standard be increased to 60 pounds to more accurately represent the weight of children who are hurt most often by falling furniture.
Children are inherently more susceptible to tip-over accidents, which is why the CPSC recommends that parents never leave items desirable to children on dressers and other top heavy furniture that would entice the child to try and climb or reach for them.
Research collected by the CPSC has indicated that children six years old and under are the most likely to be crushed or trapped under falling furniture from reaching for items at the top of dressers, or television stands, whether it is for a remote, gaming equipment or toys.
In addition to dressers, researchers took a closer look at television tip-over risks and found that someone is treated in an emergency room roughly every 52 minutes due to a television falling or tipping over on a stand that was not properly anchored.
Researchers found that although televisions are made much more slim and sleek than they used to be, the average weight of a 65-inch television on a stand approaches roughly 70 pounds, which is more than enough to crush or pin down a small child. Furthermore, researchers found that in many of the television tip-over events, the televisions were placed on a dresser stand that tipped over, causing both pieces of furniture to come crashing down on the child.
The group Consumer Union is calling on CPSC regulators to create a mandatory standard for all furniture above and below 30-inches in height and to increase the standard to 60 pounds per shelf weight. The Union is calling for regulators to set a strong, mandatory safety standard that will allow regulating officials to enforce the rules and more easily gain industry cooperation for recalls.