Kids Don't Fly : Window and balcony safety for children
An increasing number of children are admitted to hospital each year, with serious injuries, as a result of falling from windows and balconies. These falls often occur in the child's own home, over the warmer months when families leave windows and doors to balconies, open both during the day and at night.
Children aged from one to five years are most at risk as they are naturally curious, but lack the ability to recognise danger.
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead recommends that windows in children’s bedrooms and other habitable rooms be fitted with a child resistant window safety device . It should be installed so that a 125mm sphere cannot pass through the window opening, and should be able to withstand a 250N force.
It is important that parents, carers and landlords ensure the safety of their home for children. Since 2013, a number of changes have been made to ensure the safety of children around windows.
Changes to the Australian Building Code and Strata Legislation
Since 2013, new codes and laws relating to the building of new homes and existing strata properties were introduced.
New buildings in Australia
From 1 May 2013, The Australian Building Code states that any openable bedroom windows in new residential buildings, with a fall of two metres or more to the surface below, require protection to prevent children falling through them. This also applies to child care centres.
The Building Code of Australia states, that where a person, including a child, could fall through an openable window located more than two metres above a surface below, a balustrade or barrier must be constructed. The barrier or balustrade, which may be constructed as the wall beneath the window sill, or a fixed window pane, among other solutions, must be constructed with a height of not less than 86.5cm above the floor beneath the window. The code also states that any opening in the barrier must not allow a 12.5cm sphere (round ball) to pass through it.
Strata buildings in NSW
By 13 March 2018, windows that have a fall of two metres or more in strata buildings must have safety devices fitted to allow window openings to be locked at 12.5cm.
The Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2010 (NSW), states that all strata buildings in NSW must be fitted with devices that enable their windows to be locked at 12.5cm when the devices are in use. This law applies to openable windows that have sills less than 1.7m above the inside floor and which are more than 2m above the floor level outside. Devices must be able to withstand an outward force of 250N.
Owner’s corporations must have devices installed on all common property windows above the ground floor.
More information is available in the Window Safety factsheet.
Safety devices must be child resistant, be installed to not allow a 125mm sphere to pass through the window opening, and be able to withstand a 250N force.
To increase the safety of your children near windows and on balconies, please follow our recommendations below.
To prevent children falling from your windows, The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW) recommends:
Do not rely on flyscreens to prevent a child from falling out of a window. Falls Prevention Warning labels are available for purchase via the Australian Window Association: www.awa.org.au/consumer/fall-prevention
To prevent children falling from your balcony, CHW recommends:
Balcony balustrades (railings) be at least 1metre high.
Any vertical bars in the balustrade are no more than 12.5cm apart (use a ruler to measure).
Your balustrade should have no horizontal or near horizontal parts that would allow children to climb.
All furniture, pot plants and other climbable objects are kept away from the edge of the balcony.
Parents be aware of furniture that is light enough for children to drag to the balcony edge.
Children are always supervised.
Doors leading to balconies are kept closed so that children cannot gain access to them.
In 2008, The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW) identified falls from residential buildings as an increasing cause of injury, often associated with serious and fatal injuries as revealed by the number of injuries with a high Injury Severity Score. As a result, the Centre for Trauma Care, Prevention, Education and Research at CHW, together with the Kids Health Promotion Unit at CHW, established the 'Working Party for the Prevention of Children Falling from Residential Buildings'. The full Outcomes Report from the working group and a summary are available from the downloads section below.