The tragic news broke a couple of weeks back that another toddler has died after becoming entangled in a blind cord – and the fact that it happened to the child of a Norwegian shipping and oil tycoon seems to make the story resonate even stronger. This sort of accident strikes indiscriminately – regardless of wealth or otherwise.
So what’s going on, and how can we make our toddlers’ soft furnishings safer?
Oscar Wilde famously said “life’s what happens whilst you’re making plans” and in the same way that you don’t fall on ice when you know it’s there (and are being careful to avoid it), the same can be said for these tragic incidents.
So put simply you rush up the soft furnishings in your baby’s room when they’re born (or perhaps put them near the window in your own bedroom – where clearly no care or thought has ever gone into the safety of your blind cords – and why would it?). For the first 6 to 8 months of their lives they’re pretty immobile. Mum and Dad get lulled into a false sense of security about leaving their loved one alone in the bedroom during sleepy time – and perhaps the inevitable fatigue that comes with a new arrival causes you to forget to sort out those trailing cords. And then oh so gradually, little person starts to explore the world, and this is when the accident looms large on the horizon.
To quote directly from ROSPA’s website, “research indicates that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom and occur in children between 16 months and 36 months old, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months.
These toddlers are mobile, but their heads still weigh proportionately more than their bodies compared to adults and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them more prone to be unable to free themselves if they become entangled.
In addition, toddlers’ windpipes have not yet fully developed and are smaller and less rigid than those of adults and older children. This means that they suffocate far more quickly if their necks are constricted.
As with drowning, toddlers can be strangled quickly and quietly by looped cords with carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what is happening.”
Six steps to help make your child’s bedroom safe:
I urge you to visit ROSPA’s website for a definitive and exhaustive run down on everything you need to know on this subject (including downloadable pdfs and videos), but here’s a summary of some of the key points to be aware of:
- Where you’re installing new blinds in your child’s bedroom, consider blinds that don’t have a cord, or motorised blinds
- Do not place a child’s cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window
- Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and kept out of reach, and restrained with an appropriate child safety tension device where appropriate
- Tie up the cords or use one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available
- Do not hang toys or objects that could be a hazard on the cot or bed
- Don’t hang drawstring bags where a small child could get their head through the loop of the drawstring
And a few practical tips (from a fitter’s perspective):
Take the roller blind chain connectors pictured above. The chain break connector safety device – now supplied by many manufacturers as standard can sometimes break under adult use (a few call outs to perplexed customers bear testament to this), and how much “undue pressure” is required for the safety connector to break under a toddler’s weight? Also, chain driven headrail systems for roman blinds typically require continuous chains – because the gearing ratio in the mechanism requires the chains to make more than one revolution through the mechanism before the blind is fully raised or lowered.
So in these circumstances, the safest strategy is to keep your child’s cot as far away from harms way as possible, and where (as, let’s face it, is so often the case) you aren’t in a position to replace your blinds with chainless/ cordless alternatives, and you have no choice but to locate the cords or chains close to the bed, there are some pretty sensible steps you can take to minimise the danger.
Install child safety tensioners: for example you should ensure any loose chains are safely tensioned by an appropriate child safety tensioner, which can be retro fitted to existing blind and curtain cords or chains:
The roman blind pictured below is made safe with the standard tensioner supplied by the manufacturer. These tensioners are ideal for recess fixed blinds.
For blinds fitted outside the recess, these tensioners aren’t quite so ideal as you will typically have to twist the chain through 90 degrees to fix it and the tensioner to the wall, so consider fitting a metal spring loaded tension pulley (as pictured above), as these can be rotated in their housing to keep the chain running in line with its mechanism.
Make curtain cords safe too: the spring loaded pulleys pictured above are also used to keep curtain cords tensioned and out of reach.