Child Deaths from Furniture Tip-overs Keep Happening: Are Manufacturers Doing Enough?

by Terry Bryant

Each year furniture tip-overs seriously injure thousands of children enough to send them to the emergency room. Falling dressers and other furniture tip-overs can be deadly. Since 2000, they’ve been responsible for least 200 deaths; most victims were children younger than age 6. These accidents commonly happen when kids climb onto dressers, fall against them, pull themselves up onto furniture, or climb on open drawers.

Sadly, furniture manufacturers are under no legal obligation to design “tip-over-resistant” furniture. Instead, the industry incorporates a “voluntary” standard — and only for dressers. Any dresser taller than 30 inches should stay upright with 50 pounds of weight hanging from an open drawer. But the standard doesn’t say which drawer this refers to (the higher the drawer, the less stable the object and the more likely the tip-over). And since there are no mandatory standards, manufacturers don’t have to conduct safety testing, or even advise consumers that the arbitrary safety standard has been met. Some manufacturers do meet or exceed this standard. Many, however, don’t.

Short of furniture manufacturers’ consistently producing more stable dressers, anchoring them to the wall is the best safety measure. And even though the government and others strongly encourage the use of wall anchors to prevent tip-over tragedies, the publishers of Consumer Reports Magazine’s (Consumer Research) recent survey data of parental awareness of wall anchors to secure such furniture finds too many of them have missed the message or just don’t find wall anchors a safety priority.

“While we recognize that anchoring is the only action consumers can take today to ensure their furniture is secure,” says Don Huber, CR’s Director of Product Safety, “…the furniture should be designed to be more stable to more effectively reduce the number of deaths and injuries [from] furniture tip-overs.”

Why So Few Parents Use Wall Anchors to Secure Their Top-Heavy Furniture

Consumer Research’s survey began with sending secret shoppers to retail outlets to look for wall anchors. They surveyed over 1,500 U.S. adults and found that only about a quarter of Americans have anchored furniture in their homes.

There are many reasons for this, headed by the fact that the anchor kits were hard to find. At the four largest outlets which carry them, Consumer Research found that sales associates at Ace Hardware and Lowe’s were familiar with the anchoring devices. But many employees at Target and Walmart had not heard of them.

Other survey conclusions were

  • Among Americans with kids under 6 at home, 40% anchor their furniture.
  • Nearly half of adults with children in their home say they don’t anchor furniture because their children are not left unattended around furniture.
  • Other reasons Americans don’t anchor vary: 41% thought the furniture was stable enough; 25% didn’t want to put holes in their walls; 16% didn’t want to put holes in their furniture; 7% aren’t sure what hardware to buy; and 7% have never heard of anchoring furniture.

Manufacturers’ Providing Anchors Doesn’t Completely Solve the Problem

The survey also revealed that only about one-third of parents buy their children’s furniture new. This means that about two-thirds buy it used, and it’s doubtful that wall anchors would be included in a used-furniture sale.

So the onus is on parents to protect their kids, and that means anchoring any furniture likely to tip over. It’s not hard to secure a screw for an anchor to a wall stud. Do a Google search for “furniture wall anchor kit installation” (or words to that effect) and you can quickly learn how. Or speak with “handyman” friends. You can get the help you need. Maybe your landlord will help you if you rent. And wall anchor kits are available – even if you might need to visit more than one store before finding what you need. Whatever it takes, protect your kids from debilitating injuries – or worse. You owe it to them.

If your child or anyone in your family has been injured by a furniture tip-over, or by any defective product, the Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law team is here to help you. Contact us today to schedule your appointment for a free case evaluation.