The ACCC is seeking submissions from stakeholders, including consumers, consumer safety advocates, the furniture and television industries, and medical professionals about the safety hazards posed by toppling furniture, such as bookshelves, drawers and televisions.
There have been at least 27 deaths in Australia from toppling furniture and televisions since 2000. Most deaths involved the toppling of storage furniture such as chests of drawers, televisions and the furniture that televisions are placed on.
Children under the age of 5 are most at risk, followed by adults over 60. All age groups are at risk of injuries, including from the toppling of other furniture such as tables, desks and chairs.
“The weight of something like a bookshelf or large television falling on someone can result in serious injuries such as head injuries, broken bones, or death,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Furniture and televisions, including ready-made products and flat-packs that require customers to self-assemble, are often large and heavy, with the weight located towards the front of the unit.
The toppling risk increases when furniture is loaded with heavy items such as televisions, placing furniture on carpet, and through ordinary use such as opening drawers and doors which brings the weight of the unit further forward. The risk significantly increases when children climb furniture.
“Reports show that children may reach for items by stepping on drawers and shelves, and the added weight of even a small child can cause the furniture to become unstable and topple,” Ms Rickard said.
Anchoring kits, supplied with some furniture and televisions and available for purchase separately, are used to attach the unit to a wall or other secure surface. While typically effective when used correctly, anchoring kits are not always used by consumers.
The submissions to an issues paper, released today, will support the ACCC to assess the factors affecting safety, and the potential options which may be effective in reducing the risk of injury and death.
“Tip-over accidents can happen quickly and we encourage everyone to check their home for toppling hazards and to anchor any tall or unstable furniture or televisions, and to consider tip‑over safety when shopping for furniture,” Ms Rickard said.
“While some manufacturers are making efforts to address the safety risks, we are seeking feedback about what more can be done to prevent deaths and injuries from toppling furniture.”
The issues paper and information on how to make a submission is available on Product Safety Australia. Consultation will close on 30 August 2021.
Scoping more effective ways to prevent injuries and deaths caused by toppling furniture is a Product Safety Priority for the ACCC this year.
There is no mandatory safety standard or information standard specifically relating to toppling furniture and televisions in Australia. A range of voluntary measures have sought to address the safety risks, including a voluntary standard for free-standing furniture published by Standards Australia.
The main consumer goods that have been involved in injuries and fatalities due to their tendency to ‘topple over’ are storage furniture such as bookcases, chests of drawers, tallboys, dressers, wardrobes and shelves, televisions, and other furniture such as chairs and tables.
Advice for consumers
- Look for furniture and televisions that come with safety information and equipment for anchoring it to the walls.
- Keep your heaviest items in the bottom drawers or shelves, because furniture that is top heavy is easier to tip over.
- Put locking devices on drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.
- Do not place televisions on top of furniture not intended to support its weight and dimensions.
For additional safety tips for purchasing and using furniture and televisions, visit Product Safety Australia.