The Outcomes Report released by the Working Party in 2011 identified three key factors which contributed to children falling from windows or balconies. In many cases the accident was the result of a combination of one or more of these factors.
Their analysis showed children between the ages of two and four were subject to the greatest number of falls, which was attributed to the naturally curious nature of toddlers in that age bracket and their inability to recognise dangerous situations. They were also more likely to engage in climbing and jumping, and were physically “top heavy” at that age making them more susceptible to falls.
Parents were found to inadvertently contribute to falls in several ways. Often they did not recognising that furniture placed near windows or balustrades could be used by children to facilitate climbing. However, particularly in apartment buildings, smaller rooms meant parents often had little option as to where furniture was placed. In addition, children were at times sent to their bedrooms “to play”, which left them unsupervised and therefore more opportunity to undertake risky activities.
Building components were also recognised as contributing to falls in ways which may not seem obvious. Low window sills or balustrade heights could be easily climbed by children; windows which opened fully or easily offered a target for curious children; and traditional insect flyscreens had the potential to give a false sense of security, even though they are not designed to prevent falls.
Recommendations for Change
The Outcomes Report recognised that both building and educational strategies were needed to create meaningful change. This would mean seeking regulatory changes to building codes and those regulations which government the management of strata buildings.
The key recommendations were to:
- Address the false sense of security provided by insect screens.
- Ensure any prevention measures are available and appropriate.
- Enlist the support of the Australian Window Association members to provide a range of suitable solutions for both new and retrofitted windows.
- Amend the Strata Management Act 1996 to require owners’ corporations to have all openable windows above ground floor fitted with safety devices allowing limited opening or permanently secured.
Since the report, a series of steps have been taken which address those recommendations including the Kids Don’t Fly campaign, changes to the regulations and legislation which influence building safety and the introduction of new products specifically designed to prevent falls.