Submitted by Furniture Professor
Is the furniture in your home safe for everyone?
Several months ago, I wrote an article about the dangers that tipping furniture presented for young children. Recently, I found a report issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that expands on the information that I presented in that article.
According to this report, young children are not the only people at risk of injury and death due to tip overs of televisions, appliances and furniture. The data for the report are for the years 2000 to 2011 regarding deaths and 2009 to 2011 pertaining to injuries.
According to the CPSC, in the years from 2009 to 2011, an estimated 43,200 people went to the emergency room for treatment each year of injuries caused by tipping televisions, furniture or appliances. During the 2000 to 2011 period, 349 fatalities occurred. In that time period, an average of slightly more than one person died every two weeks. Of the 349 reported fatalities, 294, or 84% of the deaths were children aged one month to eight years. Among adults thirty-one years to fifty-nine years, there were sixteen deaths. Tip-over deaths for seniors, in that time period, numbered thirty-nine.
Televisions accounted for two hundred fifteen tip-over deaths during this time frame. At about half that number, furniture alone caused one hundred five deaths. Falling appliances killed 29 people. From 2006 through 2011 the estimated number of injuries sustained by falling televisions (including televisions falling alone and those falling with furniture) has risen every year except for 2011. That year saw a substantial drop in tip-over injuries from 2010. Hopefully, this drop was due to more awareness of the problem and better means of preventing these accidents.
Emergency room visits for instability accidents by gender are split 48% for men and 52% of the injuries were women. I was almost a victim of a tip-over accident about twenty years ago. I was in my office, at work, paying bills. I was in a rush for some reason that I don’t remember. I had the top drawer of my four-drawer file cabinet partially open and I needed something from the next drawer down. I scooted over from my desk to the file in my office chair and pulled the next drawer from the top open. As one might expect, the cabinet started to tip over on me. Fortunately, I was much younger and much stronger then. I was able to stop the file from tipping and push it back to the upright position, closing the drawers in the process. My file cabinet was overloaded on top of everything else so I could have been very seriously hurt.
Following is a brief summary of the CPSC’s table regarding the types of injuries suffered. The majority of the injuries were, as would be expected, contusions and abrasions, bumps and bruises. These injuries spanned all age categories.
Internal organ injuries were next on the list. All of these injuries were sustained by children ranging in age from less than one month up to seventeen years old. Read "Alarming Furniture and Child Safety Facts"
The remaining categories, in order of frequency, were lacerations, fractures and strains or sprains. These categories, with the exception of sprains or strains, included people aged 0 to 59. The sprains and strains did not occur in children enough to be statistically significant.
The final category, “All Other Diagnoses”, included babies, middle-aged people and seniors. Among children up to age 17, there were 3400 injuries per year on average. In adults up to age 59 there were 3400 injuries. In seniors there were 2000 injuries per year on average between 2009 and 2011, inclusive.
In an effort to avoid having all of you nod off, I will cut away from the statistics. What this twenty-nine page report shows is an alarming trend upward in deaths from tip-over accidents in the home. The largest increase is among young children but seniors comprise 11% of the fatalities from tipping furniture, televisions and appliances. Furniture and home safety is an important topic.
In a letter to me, Scott Krueger, the chairperson of ABC, a group that raises money to support industry initiatives relating to safety, told me that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is on board with pushing for legislation that would make anti-tip regulations mandatory instead of voluntary. He then asked, “… but where are the clever product people that can invent a product that consumers can use to anchor a variety of home furnishings items?”
I answered Scott that the products are already out there. I have seen very inexpensive plastic straps both in the aftermarket and included with furniture. But, plastic straps should be checked annually for brittleness. The plastic can dry out and become brittle. UV rays will weaken the plastic, too. I have also seen anti-tip devices that are made with steel aircraft cable and steel anchors. These are rated to withstand 400 pounds of stress and they won’t corrode. The same company that makes the steel anti-tip devices makes mounting devices for televisions, mirrors and many other things. In the interest of fairness I am obligated to say that I now represent the company that makes these products.
If my readers would like to become better informed on the problems and solutions related to tip-over accidents, I suggest checking out the following websites:
www.lambertchildsafety.org Click on the video gallery.
www.fairwarning.org They have a video archive to browse.
Go to Google Search and type in “furniture deaths”.
I spoke to Scott Krueger when I was preparing to write this article. He said to me, “On average, every two weeks more than one person dies from falling or tipping furniture, televisions or appliances. Most of these deaths are small children. As a country, aren’t we better than this?”
Furniture and home safety is up to all of us to improve upon.