While we’re very much aware of swimming pool safety and the need to protect children from the dangers around water, apartment blocks also have the potential to cause harm to curious toddlers. Statistics show that on average one child every week is taken to hospital after falling from a window. The Children’s Hospital at Westmead says that 80 per cent of children who fall from a window suffer significant injuries such as head and brain damage.
In a concerted effort to curb these alarming statistics, the Australian Building Codes Board recently introduced changed to the National Construction Code, an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments developed to incorporate all construction requirements into a single code. From May this year, windows on all new homes and apartments, which are more than two metres above the ground must be either fitted with locks that prevent the window from being opened more than 12.5cm or secured with reinforced screens.
These changes were instigated after significant consultation with industry. The Building Codes Board also took into consideration the economic implications including the cost of installing locks and screens as compared with society’s cost of treating children who were injured after falling from a window. This cost-benefit analysis showed the changes would be around zero.
Ron De Vere, Project Manager with the Australian Building Codes Board, explained these more stringent requirements in an ABCB publication.
“An increasing number of young children are being injured each year after falling out of windows. Without intervention, the situation is likely to worsen as more families with children live in houses or units of two storeys or more… The changes to be introduced in NCC 2013 require window barriers for openable windows in early childhood centres and in bedrooms of residential buildings (ie houses, apartments, hotels and the like), where the floor below the window is more than 2m above the surface beneath. Young children are most at risk from window falls in these buildings. For example, in a bedroom, where young children often play unsupervised, it is common to find beds and other furniture placed under or near windows. While it could be argued that effective supervision would solve the problem, it is unrealistic to expect supervision of young children 24/7,” wrote Ron De Vere.
These safety measures are only mandatory in new properties – existing apartment blocks are not legally required to make these changes. However, at Netstrata, we would urge Owners Corporations of established properties to consider implementing these new standards to protect children from harm.
In addition to screens and preventative locks, there are other steps property owners can take to minimise the chance of accidents involving windows and children. Keep furniture and pot plants away from windows so that children can’t climb up, don’t rely on flyscreens as a barrier because they’re designed to keep insects out and not children in and supervise youngsters when they’re playing on balconies. Also teach kids to play away from windows and balcony edges, open windows from the top not the bottom and regularly check that the reinforced screens are in good condition.
For more information on the changes to the National Construction Code, contact your Strata Manager at Netstrata.