Child safety organisation, Homesafe Kids, is calling for a review of building regulations to limit the dangers posed to young children.
Melissa Abalo from Homesafe Kids said that falls are the most common cause of child hospital presentations – many of the most serious incidents caused by toddlers slipping out of windows they have opened themselves.
“The most recent statistics compiled by the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit at Monash University show that 35,547 Victorian children were treated in hospital for falls.
According to Ms Abalo, in addition to falls from windows, assessments compiled by Homesafe Kids show that one third of Victorian homes with stairs are guarded by balustrades that don’t comply with current codes and in one in ten houses with stairs, the entire staircase did not comply, due to incorrectly dimensioned stair treads or risers.
“A common problem is balustrades wide enough for children to fall through or with construction details that encourage children to climb over,” she said. “But the most concerning issue is the number of upper level windows, accessible to toddlers, with no protection. The increase in ‘smart blocks’ and high rise apartments means that a greater number of children are living at first floor level or above.”
Ms. Abalo said that approximately one in eight two storey homes have sliding aluminium windows or wind-out awnings which can be opened wide enough for a child to fall out.
“Unless wire screens are designed with security in mind they will not provide enough resilience for a boisterous toddler. Building regulations now prescribe a maximum gap of 125mm in stair balustrades and we are recommending that upper level windows in new homes should either be fitted with secure screens or have the opening lockable at 125mm.”
Ms. Abalo said that Homesafe Kids assessors can easily modify existing windows, but parents and grandparents may do the same, simply by fixing a screw into the track of sliding windows or by shortening the chain of wind-out windows.
“Parents and grandparents can download a free child home safety guide or arrange a child home safety assessment if they are unsure of how to deal with safety issues in their houses.”