How Many Children Are Injured by Toppling Furniture?

Home should be a safe place for all children, but appliances and furniture throughout the home pose a risk to young children. When children attempt to climb bookcases, TVs, shelves, and other furniture, these heavy items can topple, causing serious injuries and even death. So, how many children are injured by toppling furniture?

The answer is too many, as furniture tip-over injuries and deaths are a national concern. According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), between 2017 and 2019, an estimated 11,300 children in the United States were treated in hospital emergency rooms yearly due to furniture, TV, and appliance tip-over injuries.

Furniture tip-overs can occur whenever a large, heavy furniture item becomes unbalanced. Young children love to explore and climb dressers, cabinets, and other furniture, potentially causing a tip-over. But by taking steps to prevent falling furniture, your home can be made safer for young children.

How Many Children are Killed by Falling Furniture?

Losing even one child to an accident caused by falling furniture feels like a senseless tragedy. Sadly, 469 U.S. children died from furniture, TV, and appliance tip-over incidents between 2000 and 2019, according to the CPSC. Children can experience severe head injuries or suffocate if a heavy piece of furniture falls on top of them, pinning them to the ground. Most tip-over deaths occur in children aged 1 to 4.

Between 1990 and 2019, more than 560,000 U.S. children were treated in emergency departments for furniture and TV tip-over injuries. Almost half of the children treated had head and neck injuries, according to a study published in the Injury Epidemiology journal. 

In addition to fatalities and injuries resulting from furniture tipping over, heavy objects placed on top of shelves, entertainment stands, and other pieces of furniture pose hazards. Wobbling or unbalanced furniture can cause objects to come crashing down, posing risk of severe or fatal injury.

This 2009 video from the CPSC includes a furniture and TV tip-over dramatization that highlights the danger and damage potential of heavy items.

How Do You Keep Furniture from Tipping?

It’s easy to overlook tipping hazards when attempting to child-proof your home. Many parents and others preparing a home for children know to look for small objects and choking hazards, block off stairways with gates, and lock up cabinets beneath sinks. Furniture, however, can seem harmless, until an accident occurs.

All parents should ask, how do you keep furniture from tipping? To keep furniture from tipping and to reduce hazards posed by dressers, TVs, shelves, and other heavy items, evaluate each room and follow these safety tips.

  • Anchor down heavy furniture and TVs. Learning how to anchor TVs, shelves, and other heavy furniture items can save a child’s life. Anti-tip anchoring kits and straps can be purchased online and in stores for as little as $5. Most anchoring kits can be installed in only a few minutes, but they may require a drill and some basic tools.
  • Keep TV remotes, toys, and other objects off of shelves and furniture. Curious children can be tempted to climb furniture if something up top catches their eye. By keeping surfaces bare or keeping items out of sight, children might be less enticed to climb or reach for objects above. Heavy items placed on top can also shift the center of gravity, causing furniture to tip more easily.
  • Keep TVs lower. Placing your TV on a low base reduces its height and how far it can fall. Conversely, wall-mounted TVs may be too high for children to reach. Older TVs can be especially heavy and dangerous if they tip over.
  • Cords should be kept out of reach. Power cords to TVs, lamps, and other items atop stands and furniture should be kept out of children’s reach. In addition to keeping them safe from pulling objects down, children should be protected from any electrical hazards.

TV Tip-Over Danger

TV tip-over hazards accounted for 41 percent of all tip-over injuries in U.S. children between 1990 and 2019, according to a study on tip-over injuries. TV tip-over incidents have declined since their peak around 2009, however. This may be because of the proliferation of smart devices that have replaced TV use and purchases. Further, older, heavier CRT TVs posed a greater risk to children than today’s somewhat lighter-weight flatscreen TVs.

However, all unanchored or unmounted TVs still pose a hazard. Older, heavier TVs are often moved to bedrooms, guestrooms, and other locations throughout the home, where they’re placed on top of dressers or tables, posing a risk. Keeping TVs lower down and anchored greatly reduces hazard potential.

Bedroom Furniture and Fall Hazards

The CPSC says that nine out of 10 furniture tip-over deaths occur in the home. Of those incidents, nearly half of tip-over deaths occur in a bedroom. The bedroom may be the most important room to protect against tip-over risks. Why? Children may be more commonly left alone in bedrooms—whether parents’ bedrooms, children’s rooms, or guestrooms. Bedrooms may seem safer than kitchens or bathrooms, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Bedrooms often contain dressers, tables, shelves, TVs, and other high-risk furniture. Being left alone leaves children more opportunity to climb furniture and put themselves at risk. Additionally, adults may not hear when a piece of furniture falls in another room. A child’s body may absorb the sound, leaving them pinned underneath.

Tip-Over Myths

While some parents may be surprised by the risks posed by heavy furniture, others may falsely believe that furniture is safe. These are some of the common misconceptions about tip-overs:

  1. Children don’t play in that room. – Even under supervision, children can easily wander to new rooms, and tip-over injuries can happen quickly. It’s also easy to forget to close doors to restricted rooms.
  2. This dresser is too heavy to tip over. – Even young children are heavy enough to offset the balance of large furniture items. Children who jump onto dressers, bookcases, and other large items push even more force against a heavy item’s center of gravity. Pulling out dresser drawers and using them as steps also offsets the center of gravity.
  3. This shelf looks very sturdy. – It’s impossible to tell how sturdy a furniture item will be just by looking at it. Further, when children open drawers or climb on items from all angles, they shift the center of balance.
  4. Our well-behaved children won’t climb furniture. – Even children who know and understand not to climb furniture can be tempted. Younger children, too, simply can’t be held responsible for their own curiosity. Furniture seems harmless, and children can quickly forget rules.
  5. Dangerous furniture has all been recalled. – Recalls for unstable furniture happen, especially if they’ve been linked to fatal tip-overs, as with IKEA’s MALM dresser. The furniture manufacturing industry is not subject to stringent tip-over laws and regulations, but there are growing calls for legislation. Any piece of upright furniture can pose a tip-over or injury risk.

Safeguard Your Home Against Tip-Over Risk

Knowing how many children are killed from falling furniture and how many children are injured from toppling furniture should encourage parents to safeguard their homes. Take steps to prevent such accidents from ever occurring in your home.

Manufacturers often do not face accountability for unstable furniture. But if you believe that a defective product was behind a child’s injury or death, we encourage you to contact Asheville personal injury attorney Lakota Denton at 828-333-5996. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about our firm and how we can help.    

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