Danger on High for Little Climbers

Tip-over accidents are more likely to occure when children use drawers or bookshelves as ladder steps.

By Tony Thomas, MD

Toddlers will climb. It’s as natural to them as breathing, eating, sleeping and exploring their environment.

And furniture will fall when tipped off balance by an adventurous, inquisitive child.

There’s nothing natural about what happens next: Severe injury or death to the child who is pinned beneath the TV, bureau, bookcase or other tall furniture.

Tip-over-related accidents are occurring in alarming numbers. In one recent year in the U.S., there were more than 44,000 tip-over accidents reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. There were 3,000 children under 5 treated in ERs from TVs falling on them. When the victims are small children, the risk is the greatest for life-threatening injury or death.

Tip-over accidents are most likely to occur when children use drawers or bookshelves as ladder steps or when they use things like stools, chairs or toys to climb higher to reach the top of high furniture. Televisions are especially likely to be tipped over when they are not secured or placed well back on the top of TV stands.

Here are some suggestions for securing your home when you have small children or if you expect them to visit:

  • Always check the stability of TVs and teach children not to climb to reach the TV or the remote control. Place the TV on sturdy furniture appropriate for the size of the TV or on a low base. Then push the TV back as far as possible.
  • Verify that furniture is stable on its own. For added security, attach to the wall or anchor to the floor all entertainment units, TV stands, bookcases, shelving and bureaus, using hardware such as angle-brackets, screws or toggles.
  • Make sure electrical cords are out of reach and teach kids not to play with them.

By Dr. Thomas practices with CHKD Health System’s Pediatric Associates.