Are landlords ready?
The 13 March 2018 deadline to ensure the safety of children in multi-story residences through the installation of window safety devices is almost here, but are landlords, owners corporations and strata management companies ready?
How many have already installed window safety devices and how many are in denial, thinking that an accident will never happen on their property?
Just last week another child was admitted to Sydney Children’s Hospital with serious injuries as a result of falling from a window in the apartment in which they lived. Children ought to be safe in their own home, so why is it that more than 3 years after strata law was changed that we still have children suffering life threatening injuries after falling from their own bedroom window?
Children falling from windows in their own home is a worldwide problem for which simple prevention measures are available. In New York, the changes made to install window protection in Harlem in 1976 resulted in a 96% reduction in child injury from falls. In NSW much work has been done to help prevent children from falling out of their bedroom windows, but the incidence of these falls and the rates of injury are still too high.
In 2008, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead identified falls by children from residential buildings as an increasing cause of injury, often associated with serious and fatal outcomes. During the period 1998 to 2008, 91 children were admitted to the hospital after falling from windows. Almost all of these children fell from a window in their own home. Over that period:
- four out of five children admitted to hospital due to a fall from a window were under five years;
- 80% had fallen more than two metres;
- 80% had significant /severe injuries;
- approximately half of the cases were associated with furniture near the window
- of the fall injuries admitted to the hospital, a significant number were rated with a high injury severity score (ISS)
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, along with many other concerned individuals lobbied sustainable changes to the safety of homes children live in and conducted a very successful campaign ‘Kids Don’t Fly’ to increase community awareness of the risk of falls from windows.
The resulting changes to building codes and strata law seemed ideal. The changes to the Australian Building Code required that from 1 May 2013:
- In any new building, any openable bedroom window above the ground floor that has a fall height of two metres or more to the surface below requires protection to prevent children falling through them.
The changes to NSW legislation require that by 13 March 2018:
- All strata buildings in NSW must be fitted with devices that enable their windows to be locked at 12.5cm when the device is engaged.
- Owners’ corporations must have such devices fitted on all common property windows above the ground floor to prevent children falling through them.
In theory these changes should now be protecting children and yet we continue to see children falling from windows in their home.
It’s time to take action. These laws are there to protect our most vulnerable but cannot do so without compliance.
- Compliance with the legislation is mandatory.
- Install safety devices to limit window openings to 12.5cm in all windows 2 m above outside ground level.
- Warn families and friends of the risk of children falling from windows.
- Flyscreens keep bugs out, not children in.