Children come to hospital with serious injuries after falling from windows and balconies. These falls are often in the child's own home and in the warmer months when windows and doors to balconies are left open.
Children aged from one to five years are most at risk as they are curious, but can not recognise danger.
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead recommends that you put child-resistant window safety devices on windows in children’s bedrooms and other rooms where they play. Install the safety device so that a 125mm sphere cannot pass through the window opening. The device must be able to withstand a 250N force.
It is important that parents, carers and landlords make homes safe for children. Since 2013, a number of changes have been made to protect children around windows.
In 2013, new codes and laws were introduced for building new homes and for all strata properties.
New homes in Australia
From 1 May 2013, The National Construction Code (NCC) states that any openable bedroom windows in new residential buildings, with a fall of two metres or more to the surface below, need protection to stop children falling through them.
There must be a balustrade or barrier for windows that are more than two metres above the surface below. The barrier or balustrade, can be a wall under the window sill, or a fixed window pane, among other solutions. It must be atleast 86.5cm high, above the floor level under the window. A 12.5cm sphere (round ball) should not be able to pass through any opening in the balustrade.
Strata buildings in NSW
By 13 March 2018, safety devices must be put on all windows that have a fall of two metres or more in strata buildings. The safety devices allow window openings to be locked at 12.5cm.
The Strata Schemes Management Regulation 2016 (NSW), states that all strata buildings in NSW must be fitted with devices so their windows can be locked at 12.5cm. This law applies to openable windows that have sills less than 1.7m above the inside floor level, 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.
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. More information is available on the NSW Fair trading website www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-property/strata-and-community-living/strata-schemes/window-safety-device-requirements .
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.