The tragic news of a blind cord death has always met with such compassion and frustration by the public. The media coverage of each and every individual tragedy acts as a reminder to those who have not yet protected their own children for their blinds and shutter cords to do so.
A change to the law this February has tightened safety regulations for blinds and shutters, following the related fatalities of 27 babies and young children since 1999 in the UK. The European Union has issued three new regulations:
- EN 13120:2009+A1:2014 amends the previously existing European Standard on 'Internal blinds - Performance requirements including safety' (published in 2009), which specifies the requirements that internal blinds should fulfil when they are fitted to a building. The amendment considerably extends the scope of this text so that it covers not only venetian blinds, roller blinds, vertical blinds and pleated blinds - but also honeycomb blinds, Roman shades, Austrian/Festoon blinds, panel blinds, plantation shutters and roll-up blinds. It also significantly expands the clause on 'protection from strangulation' to address specific hazards posed by cords.
- EN 16433:2014 'Internal blinds - Protection from strangulation hazards - Test methods' is a new standard that specifies test methods which can be used to verify that a window blind conforms to the requirements relating to 'protection from strangulation' as specified in EN 13120.
- EN 16434:2014 'Internal blinds - Protection from strangulation hazards - Requirements and Test methods for safety devices' is a new standard that specifies requirements and test methods for safety devices that can help to improve the safety of window blinds and prevent accidents. These safety devices can either be fitted to window blinds during the manufacturing process or retro-fitted to window blinds that have already been installed.
These new regulations aim to ensure that all existing blinds are made safe using a retrofit safety device, and all cords and chains are fitted with a safety device at the point of manufacture.
In addition, the EU has banned the use of cords and chains that "could create a hazardous loop" from being installed on any premises "where children 0-42 months are likely to have access or be present". Office spaces being converted into residences are equally subject to these new regulations. Where cords and chains are installed, they must now come with visible warnings.
Though consumers will now receive a safety device with products, it remains the parent's duty to secure window coverings with the simple fixtures. It is wise to assume that this is often an afterthought for parents, but the dangers are very real.
I am writing this article today as I want to remind people of the dangers of having loosely hanging blinds cords in their home. Now that I have become a father for the first time I feel that it is my duty to remind other parents of the issue with the hope of raising awareness for the BBSA's Make it Safe campaign.
The Make it Safe campaign was established by the British Blind & Shutter Association to ensure effective development of standards for internal window blinds and to provide appropriate safety advice to homeowners and those responsible for public and commercial buildings. They have led the fight along with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Child Accident Prevention Trust in having these new EU regulations put in place.
To quote directly from ROSPA's website,
research indicates that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom and occur in children between 16 months and 36 months old, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months.
These toddlers are mobile, but their heads still weigh proportionately more than their bodies compared to adults and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them more prone to be unable to free themselves if they become entangled.
In addition, toddlers' windpipes have not yet fully developed and are smaller and less rigid than those of adults and older children. This means that they suffocate far more quickly if their necks are constricted.
As with drowning, toddlers can be strangled quickly and quietly by looped cords with carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what is happening.
Find out how to safety proof your window coverings by visiting any of the fore-mentioned websites or manufacturer's website. Here are a few alternative blinds cord safety guides should you wish to seek more comprehensive information: Home Safety Scotland, Wooden Blinds Safety Guide, Baby World and the Net Mums forum.
RoSPA has produced a fantastic video showing how quick and easy it is for a family to fit cleats for blind cords. It only takes three minutes to watch so please do give it your attention and most importantly, Use the Clip!