When thinking about dangerous and potentially deadly hazards that could impact your children, you may first think of severe illnesses, running into a busy street, electrical outlets, hot stoves, bike injuries, or trampoline injuries. But, one of the most dangerous hazards in all of our homes is furniture. Seems so innocuous, right? But most of us — if not all — have some furniture in our homes that could potentially injure or take the life of our children. All it takes is a moment for it to tip over.
The Dangers of Furniture
In 2017, the popular Malm dresser from IKEA tipped over and killed a two-year-old. In 2020, the Swedish furniture retailer paid a 46 million dollar settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the child’s parents. Even before this tragic accident and before the settlement, IKEA had offered free wall-anchoring kits to customers before issuing a recall of the product in June 2016.1 This was because, unfortunately, three other families suffered similar fates with the furniture before this particular case.
So the two-year-old’s death was, unfortunately, “not an isolated case,” the article said. Consumer product safety groups “pressed members of Congress2 to pass the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act or STURDY Act,3 which would require the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop safety rules for freestanding clothing storage units to protect children from death or injury from tip-overs,” the article noted.
Long before IKEA, back in the ’80s — when it was the wild west era of parenting — my parents had this massive antique dresser. It had my nightlight, trinkets, and my Teddy Ruxpin toy on it. When I was four, and of course, wanting to do things all by myself like most preschoolers, I pulled out all the drawers to reach my Teddy Ruxpin and tried to use them as steps. The drawers were incredibly heavy. Yet somehow, I managed to open all of them. The next thing I remember was that I had the entire dresser on top of me, and my parents were trying to pull it off. I got checked out at the hospital, and everything was fine, which was extremely lucky for me. But how often does this dangerous hazard occur in homes?
What can you do to prevent furniture from tipping over and falling on children? What products help stabilize your furniture the best?
How Often Does Furniture Tipping Injure or Kill Kids Per Year?
The answer to how many children die per year due to furniture tipping in the home is staggering. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website, one child dies every two weeks when a TV, furniture, or appliance falls on top of them.4
As far as injuries, the statistics are even worse. There are about three injuries due to furniture tipping per hour, 71 injuries per day, 2,117 injuries per month, and 25,400 injuries per year. Forty-five percent of these tipping instances happen in a bedroom in the home.4 With these numbers, it’s important to know why this keeps happening and what we can do to prevent it from happening to our children
Why Does Furniture Tipping Happen and How Can It Kill a Child?
Per the CPSC, 34% of the time, furniture tipping happens due to the child climbing the furniture. Fourteen percent of the time, furniture tips due to hitting, pulling, or kicking the furniture. Oddly, 8% of the time, the furniture tips over while kids are playing nearby. A whopping 41% is unknown as to why furniture tipping happens.4 Perhaps, this is because it happens when parents aren’t supervising the kids and are unsure of how the incident occurred. Unfortunately, 60% of the time a child dies from furniture tipping, the child is crushed by the furniture, according to the CPSC website. With 18% being because the victim was trapped and unable to breathe and 10% being because they were hit or struck, it’s important to know how to prevent furniture tipping.4
How to Prevent Furniture Tipping
The CPSC released literature5 on ways to prevent these tragedies from occurring. In addition to the list of tips, they include:
- Keeping the TV and cable cords out of reach (so your kids don’t yank on them and pull the TV on top of them)
- Anchoring both the furniture and/or the TV to the wall and pushing the TV as far back against the wall as you can
- Placing remote controls, toys, and other items that might be attractive to children off TV stands or large furniture
- Putting your TV on a sturdy, low base and anchoring the TV
- Anchoring all furniture to the floor or the wall
- Make sure freestanding kitchen ranges and stoves are installed with anti-tip brackets
- Supervising children in rooms where you haven’t followed these safety tips
Thankfully, there are a lot of products and helpful DIY tips to secure your furniture and keep them from tipping, avoiding this dangerous hazard in your home.
Products and Tips for Anchoring Furniture
If you’re looking for how to anchor furniture to a wall without studs (which means the wall where your furniture is placed is drywall), you’ll need a heavy-duty drywall anchor. You can find this at The Home Depot.
Our home is 100 years old, meaning almost every wall is plaster, not drywall. So if you’re in the same boat, how do you anchor furniture to plaster? It’s harder to find studs this way. A traditional stud finder doesn’t always work — which we have learned the hard way when trying to hang art. A Consumer Reports article about anchoring furniture suggests testing the spot above the baseboard by drilling a small hole into the wall with a small wood bit.6 If you feel resistance the entire time, you’ve found a stud. If you don’t, keep trying by moving a little to the left or right until you’ve found one, the article notes.
Now, if you have a brick or concrete block wall, this may be a bit trickier. You may need to hire a professional handyperson to secure the furniture there. Otherwise, per the article, you need a hammer drill with a masonry bit and self-anchoring masonry tools.6 If you want to DIY this, you can watch the walk-through here.
Additionally, Consumer Reports released a super informative and helpful video on how to anchor a dresser for all of you visual learners.6
Other furniture anchoring products you can use to anchor furniture yourself include a zip-tie furniture anchor kit, wall straps, TV mounts, and cables, which can all be found on Amazon or your local hardware or big-box home improvement store.
Before your baby can crawl, ensure you avoid this dangerous hazard in your home. Anchor all your furniture that could tip over, including dressers, TV stands, TVs, and bookshelves. You’ll be thankful you took the extra steps and did everything possible to protect your baby from a visit to the hospital or worse. And please don’t keep a favorite toy on top of a dresser as my parents did. Making steps to climb up to the top only takes a few moments. Your child may not be as lucky as I was when trying to grab my Teddy Ruxpin.