Toppling furniture: lessons from toddler’s tragic death

Published: 
25 Jun 2018

Toddler Blake Shaw was killed when a freestanding bookcase fell on him in August 2016. Blake's death provides a tragic reminder to all parents and carers to anchor unstable furniture and large TVs.

We recommend parents and carers take steps to secure TVs and furniture with anchoring devices, purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and deep bases, and install child-resistant drawer locks to prevent drawers from being opened and climbed on.

Blake's story

Blake’s parents, Tim and Kirstie have bravely shared their tragic story with us to raise awareness of the dangers to children caused from unsecured furniture and TVs.

Hazards

Small children tend to climb on furniture such as freestanding bookcases, drawers, wardrobes and sideboards, and if the furniture is unsecured the child's weight can cause it to topple.

Falling furniture can not only strike a child but can trap and crush them underneath. Injuries include:

  • broken bones
  • brain injuries
  • blunt force trauma
  • crushed chest cavities
  • death by asphyxiation.

Safety tips

Buy safe

  • Purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and broad bases.
  • Look for furniture that comes with safety information or equipment for anchoring it to the walls.
  • Test the furniture in the shop - make sure it is stable. For example, pull out top drawers of a chest of drawers and apply a little pressure to see how stable it is. Make sure the drawers do not fall out easily.

Use safe

  • Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.
  • Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.
  • Secure televisions to the wall.
  • Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.
  • Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that encourage children to climb up and reach.
  • Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.
  • Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.

Accidents in Australia

Nationally, at least 22 children under the age of 9 have died in Australia from toppling furniture or televisions since 2001. Children under 3 are at the greatest risk. 

An estimated 2600 Australians receive hospital treatment for injuries caused by toppling furniture and televisions each year (equating to approximately 50 per week).

The ACCC commissioned research in April 2015 on consumer awareness of furniture stability risks and prevention. Specifically, the research focused on the particular dangers of common furniture in homes with children under the age of five.

Among other findings, the research showed that of parents who had experienced a dangerous toppling incident (27%), almost a quarter of those said the child was injured in the incident - although the majority of injuries were minor - and most had experienced a near-miss.

The full research report is available at:
Consumer awareness of furniture stability risks and prevention