The home is where families spend much of their time outside of work and school. As such, it is the site of many accidents, and, surprisingly, quite a few of them involve furniture. While a new flat-screen TV or heirloom dresser may be a prized possession, these items can also be a source of injury, especially in homes with small children or older adults. The first step to preventing furniture-related injuries is to purchase sturdy pieces made with high-quality materials. Once the furniture is in your home, it’s important to take some additional steps to keep your family safe. Here are a few things to keep in mind when maintaining an accident-free home:
The Hazards of Furniture Tip-Overs
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), tipping furniture and TVs are among the top hidden hazards in the home. It’s common for young children to climb furniture to get something out of their reach, but items like dressers, armoires, and TV stands can easily tip over under the weight of a little climber.
Each year, tip-over injuries send 38,000 Americans to the hospital, and the majority (two-thirds) of those injuries involve children under the age of 5. Tipping TVs and furniture can also be deadly. In fact, according to CPSC statistics, furniture-related accidents account for one child’s death every two weeks in the United States.
To raise the public’s awareness of furniture tip-over accidents, the CPSC launched its “Anchor It” campaign in 2015. The national campaign urges consumers to anchor large items such as dressers, bookshelves, and TVs to the wall to prevent them from tipping onto children and other family members. Additionally, the CPSC advises families to remove tempting items such as toys and remote controls from out-of-reach places as part of the Anchor It efforts to “get on top of it before they do.”
Preventing Tip-Overs with Furniture Anchors
Properly anchoring heavy furniture is a quick and easy task when using the right equipment. Manufacturers often ship anchoring kits with furniture, but these kits, which typically include two brackets and a tether, are also readily available in stores. Consumers attach one bracket to the furniture and the other to the wall. The brackets are then tethered by a strap or cable to prevent the piece from tipping over. When using furniture anchors, it’s important to do the following:
Select the right anchor—Some furniture comes with small plastic cable ties that experts warn can degrade and eventually break. Instead of using plastic, it is better to buy kits that contain nylon or braided steel cable tethers. Metal “L” brackets will also work well for many pieces of furniture.
Find a wall stud—Most modern homes are built with walls comprising drywall boards attached to interior wooden studs. You should screw furniture anchors into these studs rather than drywall, which can easily tear and break. Use a stud finder to locate a fastening spot, and be sure to attach the anchor using screws that are long enough to ensure a secure connection.
Attach to solid wood—In addition to attaching the wall bracket to a wooden stud, it’s important to firmly secure the other anchor into a solid piece of wood on the item of furniture. Avoid attaching the anchor to thin back panels or other areas that may not hold a screw firmly. Once you’ve located a solid spot, mark the area and pre-drill the wood before fastening the anchor with a wood screw.
Furniture-Specific Safety Tips
Your home most likely contains many heavy items that could cause serious injury if they fell on a member of your family. Along with anchoring all top-heavy furniture to the wall, you should examine every piece of furniture for potential hazards. Some items to watch out for include the following:
Dressers and Armoires—Always install some sort of anti-tip device on dressers and armoires in every room of your home. When purchasing new items, you should look for dressers with automatic drawer stops and drawers that open and close smoothly. It’s also important to always close your dresser drawers after use to keep young children from using them like a ladder to reach items on the top of the dresser.
Bookcases—Like dressers and armoires, bookcases are very tempting to young climbers. Be sure to properly anchor your bookcases to a wall and take time to arrange the items on the shelves. Keep the heaviest books on the lowest shelf and never place any enticing items up high, where a child may be tempted to climb for them.
Televisions and Entertainment Centers—Regardless of whether it’s a newer flat-screen or an older “tube” model, the TV in your home could be an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, you can easily prevent injuries by mounting televisions to the wall or anchoring them firmly on a sturdy stand that is the appropriate size for the TV. If anchoring is not an option, be sure to push the television as far back on the stand as possible. Also, always keep all cords tucked away and out of reach to prevent tripping and tip-over injuries.