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Furniture Tip-Over Dangers and Prevention

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I spent a significant part of my childhood trying to climb up furniture. Book shelves, armoires, chests of drawers.... You name it, I climbed it. I was lucky, though, that only one of the things I climbed tipped over on me. It was a big book case, almost ceiling high. Thankfully, it was empty when I tried to climb it, and it must have been made of the lightest wood possible, because I wasn't badly hurt. My partners in crime (the neighbor kids) just lifted the book case off of me and I had a few new bumps and bruises to show off.

Many children are not so lucky when it comes to furniture tip-over accidents. At least five small children each year are killed when a big television tips over onto them. Thousands more are injured enough to require medical treatment each year. From 2000 to 2010, CPSC reports almost 250 children killed in accidents involving furniture or television tip-overs. Most of these involved kids under the age of six.

The Danger Starts Early

As soon as your baby begins pulling up to stand, he or she is at risk of being hurt in a furniture tip-over. It doesn't take much force, if you're pulling at the right angle, to topple most flat screen TVs or lightweight book cases. By the time your child can get a foot up onto a drawer or shelf to try to climb, the risk is much greater. While modern furniture is subject to safety standards that include a stability test, older furniture isn't likely to meet those standards. Although furniture can be recalled if it doesn't meet the stability standard, that is little comfort if your child has already been injured by a falling chest of drawers.

What To Do About Tip-Over Danger

If your new furniture comes with an anti-tip bracket or device, use it. It's too easy to toss those little brackets in the spare parts pile, but the fact is, those devices could save your child's life. Some brackets hold the furniture to the wall, and others hold it to the floor. Always read the instructions that come with the furniture to see how you're supposed to install the anti-tip device.

Check any furniture already in your home for stability. Can you rock it back and forth easily? Could you tip it over easily? If the furniture has drawers, check for stability when the drawers are open, too. Many newer dressers have a drawer lock feature that will only allow one drawer at a time to be opened. This helps reduce the risk of tipping, too. If your furniture is unstable and did not come with a bracket, you can purchase anti-tip straps at many baby products stores or in the baby department at Walmart or Target.

If you have a large TV, put it on an appropriately sized stand so that it doesn't overhang the sides. Push the TV as far back from the front edge of the stand as possible. Some companies make anti-tip devices just for televisions, too.

Keep TV cords and other large appliance cords out of reach. A child who pulls on a cord can cause the item to fall on top of them. Use cord-keeper devices or some other method of cord control.

Don't keep your child's toys or other tempting stuff on top of furniture where it may encourage your child to climb or reach for it. Put the tempting stuff in a spot where your child can't see it.

Use anti-tip brackets on your other large appliances, too. Ovens, stoves, washers and dryers could also be tipped by an industrious child.

Take extra care when visiting friends and family, because they may not know about furniture tip-over dangers and may not have installed brackets in their homes. I was not at my home when I pulled the book case onto myself. If your child plays at another house often, such as a grandparent's house, encourage the homeowner to follow these safety steps to reduce risk.

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