Window Blind Safety

window blind safety

IKEA To Sell Only Cordless Window Blinds

Monday, October 5th, 2015

October 5th 2015

Well done IKEA!

IKEA (US) announced in the last few days that it will only sell window blinds with no cords or unaccessible cords. This announcement is part of IKEA’s home safety program, Safer Homes Together, but this particular announcement  aims to reduce the number of infant fatalities through strangulation by window blinds cords and chains.

Rear Cords of Roman Blind

Danger of Rear Cords in Roman Blind

In 2010 I had the privilege to present at the International Product Safety week in Brussels. On that occasion I highlighted the dangers of operating chains and rear cords in Roman blinds and demonstrated how they could be made safe. I was delighted, on that occasion, to be presenting with a representative of IKEA’s European division, and heartened to see such a prestigious and successful company take a stance on the window blind safety issue.

According to research carried out in the six year period following 1996 by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) almost one child per month dies from strangulation by window blind cords or chains. Indeed the CSPC has labelled window blind cords and chains as one of the five deadliest hidden home hazards.

In a statement Heather Spatz, who is IKEA’s US Country Sales Manager, is quoted:  “IKEA is committed to working together with our customers to raise awareness of this important issue and to help families get the knowledge they need to ensure a safer everyday life at home.”

As of the 1st of January 2016 all of the Swedish chain’s stores worldwide will only sell cordless blinds or blinds with inaccessible cords. This follows a similar stance by US chain Target last year and who are now only offering cordless window blind products.

While a revised voluntary standard was published in the US in the past couple of years, I understand that the CPSC is currently considering imposing a mandatory standard on the manufacturing and selling of corded blinds. This is a step that the Window Covering Manufacturers Association  (WCMA) is opposed to. While they agree, that “only cordless window coverings or those with inaccessible cords should be used in homes with young children”, they argue, that “cordless products don’t simply work for some user groups, including the elderly and people with disabilities.” Therefore the WCMA believes that the industry should continue to “offer both cordless and safe corded window products”, as well as educating the consumer of the potential dangers of corded products.

In time I hope that there will be reasonably cheap and cordless alternatives to the likes of venetian blinds. Until then the industry and consumer groups must continue to educate and inform the public on the dangers of corded window blind products. Unless, that is, that the manufacturers and retailers of window blinds take a proactive step, like IKEA and Target, to cease manufacturing and selling those dangerous products.

Poor Safety Device or Poor Installation?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Aaron O’Connell

I recently posted an article on the Windowblindsafety Facebook page about the voluntarily recall of over 200,000 window blinds in the US.

It was reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US that Blinds 2 Go had recalled the blinds as a result of concerns that the safety devices used could pose a strangulation risk to children. The problem is due to the fact that the chain can slip out of the device.

Strangely enough, I’m currently in the US and am staying in an apartment with window blinds with the same safety device (p-hook), which was highlighted in the article…….with the same problem! Clearly as you can see from the photo the chain is too slack and the safety device could easily have been installed at least a half inch lower.

Loose Chain in Tension Device

Chain removed from Tension Device

I can understand now why they were recalled, but to me it has nothing to do with the safety device but more to do with the manner in which it is fitted. Before I continue, my apologies for all of those installers out there who are installing safety devices correctly.

The safety devices in question are actually the ones used in Europe without any recorded incidents. Indeed I supply these to parents on my childsafety.ie website.

Having been a member of the EU Working Group charged with the revision of the Internal Window Blind Standard and the drafting of two further standards in relation to testing safety devices on their own and in conjunction with the window blinds, I can say that this particular type of P-hook has been tested according to the EU Standards and has passed.

There is also another type of P-hook, which looks identical but prevents the chain from being removed. It has a little sliver of PVC completing the connection between both sides of the device. From an installers point of view this can be a pain in the proverbial a**, as any looped chains or cords which do not have these P-hooks pre-attached will require the installer to break the loop, run the chain or cord through the device and to re-connect the loop prior to fitting. This would take an inordinate amount of time if you had a lot of blinds to install!

The issue as I’ve stated above is not that the safety device cannot do the job it was designed for but that, because it is installed without putting the chain/cord under tension, the chain can be removed from the device. This renders the chain a danger to young children.

The European Standard states, that “the fixed tensioning system shall prevent the looped pull cord(s) becoming slack. This shall be achieved by installing the fixed retaining device at the maximum distance possible from the control mechanism.” I don’t have a copy of the latest US WCMA Standard, but I would assume that their document contains similar text?

This problem is common also in Ireland and constantly frustrates me when I see a safety device improperly fitted. It demonstrates the need for installers to be educated on the dangers posed by loose cords and chains and how to make them safer.

I learned some time ago from a friend of mine in Germany, that window blind installers there must attend college to be qualified to fit window blinds. Granted the course covers the installation of all types of window products, manual and electric. The results are that there has not been any incident of strangulation on window blind cords in Germany. Why can’t this type of course, or even something less detailed, be rolled out everywhere?

Providing accurate step-by-step instructions for the installation of the safety device is also mandatory now with all window blinds in the EU as per EN13120:2014. This is even more important for those householders/purchasers that will be installing their own blinds.

Window blinds with looped cords and chains are dangerous to young children. They pose a strangulation risk if those cords and chains are not secured, either out-of-reach or under tension. Standards throughout most of the world now require safety devices be provided and installed with corded window blinds. Its imperative that they are installed correctly, according to manufacturers’ instructions.

Remember one child’s life lost is one too many!

When will window blind deaths stop?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

No Safety Device Installed

Aaron O’Connell, 20th November 2014

I had hoped that I would never have to write a post on my website about another incident, but it is with great sadness that I report about the death of a 21-month-old baby girl in Comber, County Down.

According to reports in the national media the baby girl became entangled in window blind cord at her home on Wednesday morning.

The alarm was raised and emergency services transported the toddler to Ulster Hospital in Dundonald. However, despite the best efforts of medical staff there, the child was pronounced dead later in the afternoon.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) this is the fourteenth child fatality through window blind cord strangulation since January 2010. In fact 24 toddlers have strangled on window blind cords since the beginning of 1998, and this is despite a concerted “Make it Safe” campaign by the window blind industry in the United Kingdom.

Voluntary organisations, Home Accident Prevention (HAP) Northern Ireland and RoSPA have been holding seminars in the last few years in an effort to create greater awareness and to educate householders of the dangers of looped window blind cords, yet despite their trojan work, three children have died in Northern Ireland since June 2006.

Indeed this latest tragedy comes on the back of the recent publication of three window blind safety standards by CEN, the European Committee for Standardization. I was involved in the Working Group with the responsibility for drafting these standards and acknowledge that the industry has had to make significant changes in order to comply with these new regulations.

So the question you may ask is “why are these tragedies still occurring?”

The answer is that children are being strangled on window blinds that have been hanging on window prior to the recent publications. There are millions of unsafe window blinds hanging on windows throughout Ireland and the UK. It would be fair to say that safer window blinds are being manufacturer and installed now, since the standards were announced. However, given that the industry has been aware of the dangers of cords and loops in window blinds for years, with incidents being reported as far back as 1998, why weren’t safer blinds being manufactured since then? Well, some conscientious companies were, while others were not. In my previous company in Cork, I was supplying and installing child safety devices with all blinds since I learned of the dangers on a trip to a New York company in 1997.

You see the new standards are merely voluntary. They’re not law. Although there is a requirement under the General Product Safety Directive that manufacturers and retailers must offer safe products on the marketplace. Yet to date in Ireland, no manufacturer or retailer has been prosecuted for selling an unsafe window blind that caused a child’s death. If there is no penalty to be paid then you are less likely to follow the rules!

Another reason for recurring tragedies is the lack of public awareness of the dangers of window blind cords and loops. It is fair to say, that most people wouldn’t consider blinds to be dangerous. There has been an enormous amount of publicity on the subject in the last few years and I have been involved in numerous radio, television and newspaper interviews myself, but the fact is there are people out there that still aren’t aware of the dangers of blinds that are fitted with looped cords or chains. There is a very real risk that they could harm young children. They have caused significant number of deaths!

So, what can you do to ensure your blinds are safe in your home?

1.     Fit a safety device to all corded window blinds

2.     Make sure to refit all safety devices after decorating

3.     Ensure all cords and chains end at least 1.5m above the ground

4.     Do not tie cords together

5.     Move all beds, cots, highchairs and furniture away from windows with corded window blinds

Remember, one child’s life lost is one too many!

Corcoran Window Furnishings Compliant with Safety Standards

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

I am happy to report that Corcoran Window Furnishings (CWF) are fully compliant with the three recently published EU standards on window blind safety.

The revised EN13120:2014 – Internal blinds – Performance requirements including safety, lists the requirements that internal blinds need to fulfill when they are installed. The revised document now includes all types of window blinds, including honeycomb blinds, Roman shades, Austrian/Festoon blinds, panel blinds, plantation shutters and roll-up blinds. It also pays significant attention to ‘protection from strangulation’ to address specific dangers posed by cords.

Two further new standards were drafted by the EU Working Group, of which I was a member. EN 16433:2014 ‘Internal blinds – Protection from strangulation hazards – Test methods’ lists the tests which are to be performed to ensure that a window blind conforms to the requirements relating to ‘protection from strangulation’ as specified in EN 13120. In other words, it ensures that the window blind will be child safe when it is installed with the appropriate safety device.

The second new standard, EN 16434:2014 ‘Internal blinds – Protection from strangulation hazards – Requirements and Test methods for safety devices’ sets out the requirements and test methods for safety devices alone.  In other words it will ensure that these safety devices are fit for their purpose. As a member of the working group, I have found that a raft of untested and inappropriate safety devices have been placed in the marketplace, particularly since 2009, and it was necessary to regulate these in some way.

Following contact from Madeleine Corcoran of Corcoran Window Furnishings (CWF) I was happy to work with them to ensure their company was doing everything possible to produce child safe window blinds. From the outset I was impressed by the proactive work the company had already put in to educate and inform their retail clients and the consumer by way of a consumer child safety leaflet and an information booklet for its retail clients. I did assist in the reformatting of the layout of these documents but it is fair to say that the key information had already been included.

CWF Owners & Staff with Aaron O'Connell (Back Row 3rd from right)

My main tasks were to test their products for compliance, to train CWF staff on the new standards and to ensure the relevant key documentation was provided.

Testing of the window blinds manufactured by CWF was performed by myself and Madeleine Corcoran in their premises, and followed the tests specified in EN16433:2014. I am happy to report that all of CWF’s manufactured window products passed those tests and comply with the new standards.

I trained the entire CWF workforce on the requirements of the new standards, covering areas from procurement, sales, manufacturing, installation and aftercare. At the beginning of each session I gave a general overview of the subject of window blind safety, how accidents can happen, the amount of accidents that have occurred in Ireland, the UK and the US, and the impact the sudden loss of young lives can have on families. This was followed by discussions on the company’s obligations under the new standards. Actually, CWF have exceeded these requirements by providing additional information to its clients.

Documentation has been complied with certificates of compliance on all products tested in-house, in addition to certificates of compliance for products, which are manufactured by third parties. All of the required warning labels and installation instructions are provided with each order to ensure that the end-user is fully aware of the dangers posed by corded window products and the simple actions that can be taken to make them child safe. With all of this in mind I am happy to recommend CWF products to the consumer. I wish all window blind manufacturers and retailers were as proactive and conscientious as Corcoran Window Furnishings.

Coroner to call for window blind safety improvements

Friday, June 6th, 2014
Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

A coroner overseeing the inquest of two-year-old Sophie Allen in Sunderland is to petition the UK government to take action to prevent further loss of life.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) estimate that there are over 200 million blinds in existence with unsafe cords and chains, and while the new EU Standards were published on 26th February, it does not deal with those older blinds, only blinds manufactured from the date of publication.

Coroner Derek Winter has indicated that he will question the government as to what measures it will take to create greater awareness of the dangers of looped cords and chains in window blinds and of the requirements in the new standards. In the UK alone 24 young children  have strangled on window blind cords since January 2002. Fourteen of those children have died since the beginning of 2010, and this is despite an awareness campaign by the British Blinds and Shutter Association.

It is obvious that government agencies need to act to ensure manufacturers and retailers are aware of their obligations under the new standards, to police them to the point of prosecution, and to create greater awareness amongst the public.

The Irish Problem

A similar problem faces the Irish government. While there have been a lower number of fatalities here with five deaths in the last seven years, when you consider the population differences between the two countries, our rate of window blind deaths has been higher. Will it take another death in Ireland for this government to act?

The Excuses

The new EU Standards are voluntary and this is the reason that the authorities are giving for their inaction……and financial resources. The first is a poor excuse because there is an obligation on manufacturers and retailers to place safe products on the marketplace. There are approximately 200 manufacturers and retailers of window blinds in Ireland and, by my estimate, it would take somebody about six months to visit all of them to ensure they are complying. Would that action cost so much? This would make sure that blinds are child safe going forward, but what about the older blinds?

Calls have been made by some members of the public to ban window blinds with cords and chains. Realistically this could be done going forward but we still have the issue of blind which are already hanging on windows. This is where we need awareness campaigns in the media, in schools and other public areas.

Great Work

I wrote an article last week about the efforts of two Northern Ireland organizations to create awareness and educate parents and child carers on window blind safety. The work of Home Accident Prevention (HAP) and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is to be commended, particularly as they are both voluntary organizations.

When are Irish authorities going to do something before another child dies. Remember, one child’s life lost is one too many!

Northern Ireland leads way in window blind safety awareness

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Aaron O’Connell

Authorities in Northern Ireland continue to lead the way in creating greater awareness of window blind safety and educating parents and child carers on the dangers of looped cords and chain in window blinds.

My records show that two young toddlers have strangled in window blind cords since June 2006 in comparison to the five children that have died in southern Ireland in the same period, yet agencies like Home Accident Prevention, (HAP) the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Public Health Agency in the north are working tirelessly to prevent further deaths.

This week alone a Blind Cord Safety Seminar took place in the Guildhall in Derry. The event was fully attended and included Deputy Mayor Gary Middleton, who spoke of the dangers of looped cords and blinds in homes and the lack of awareness amongst most people.

Dean Regan Russell

A letter from Dean Regan Russell’s mother, Joanne, was included in a booklet issued at the event. Dean lost his life after becoming entangled in a blind at his home in Tralee in 2011.

The question I would ask is why isn’t something like this being done in the Republic of Ireland?

Authorities say it’s a lack of finances, yet HAP is a voluntary organisation and RoSPA is a registered charity, and they manage to educate more parents and child carers than we have done here in the republic.

With the publication of the new standards there is also a lack of information and also a lot of misinformation amongst those that manufacture, retail and install window blinds. Now is the time we need direction in the industry from the powers that be before another child’s life is lost.

One child’s life lost is one too many!

Window blind safety standards will not eliminate fatalities

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Operating Chain Too Long

Aaron O’Connell

With the recent news that revised and new standards covering safety aspects of internal window blinds were published one would be foolish to expect that there will be no further deaths due to strangulation on window blind cords and looped chains.

Those of you reading this will ask “why won’t the standards prevent further loss of life?

Simply put there are millions of existing window blinds in Ireland and the UK with cords and chains that have hazardous loops that are within easy reach of young children. While the new standards will help reduce loss of life going forward, as manufacturers and retailers are required to provide safety devices and information in relation to window blind safety, its those blinds that are already installed in homes and other areas that children frequent, which are causing, and will continue to cause loss of life. This was a concern highlighted by ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardization in response to the recent announcement of the new standards. Stephen Russell, Secretary General, stated that, while “they trusted that the tougher safety standards will lead to a decrease in accidents and fatalities, blinds already installed in homes continue to give concern”.

Just last month two-year-old Sophie Allen strangled to death on a window blind cord while playing in her bedroom at her home in Sunderland. To my knowledge that’s 24 fatalities due to window blind cords and chains in the United Kingdom since the beginning of 2002 and 14 since 2010.

While there have been no recorded fatalities in Ireland this year, I am aware of one lucky escape. Three-year-old Jack Hagney was very fortunate after he was found by his four-year-old sister Lily and rescued by father Michael at their home in Donegal. Had it not been for their quick response Jack would not be alive today.

Further afield, two children strangled on window blind cords in the space of one week in February in Sydney, Australia. This is despite the fact that the Australian government passed mandatory standards in 2010.  Last month a six-year-old girl got entangled in the cords of a venetian blind at her home in Washington, United States, and subsequently died.

So what needs to be done?

Having been involved in the revision of EN13120 and the drafting of EN16433 and EN16434 at European level, I am all too aware that these new documents will only go so far to preventing loss of life. With the cooperation of those working in the industry they will ensure that window blinds manufactured, and more importantly installed, going forward will be child safe.

The key to preventing further loss of life is education of the public by both the industry and government bodies. We need a concerted advertising campaign. One that’s hard-hitting and to the point, that will make parents and child-minders take a hard look at their window blinds and identify any safety concerns.

When I review any newspaper article, listen to any radio interview or watch any television interview about a child strangling on window blind cords or chains, the first thing I notice is the lack of knowledge or understanding of how lethal window blind cords and chains can actually be. “We didn’t know of the dangers of the cords.”

Strangle to death in under a minute

Remember, a child caught in a looped cord or chain can lose consciousness in less than ten seconds and lose its life in just under a minute. Children up to the age of about 36 months find it difficult to free themselves if they become entangled in the cords, as their heads still weigh more in proportion to their bodies compared to adults, and their muscular control is not yet fully developed. In addition, their windpipes have not yet fully developed and are thus smaller and less rigid than in adults and older children, so that they suffocate more quickly if their necks are constricted.

Its incumbent upon those working in the window blind industry and those agencies in charge of policing safety to make sure people are made more aware of the dangers of looped cords and chains.

One child’s life lost is one too many!

New Window Blind Safety Standards Welcomed – Issues remain

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Windowblindsafety.ieAaron O’Connell

The European Committee for Standardization has published the long-awaited standards for internal window blinds. These three new documents will help manufacturers to improve the child safety aspects of internal window blinds, and they were drafted following a spate of deaths of young children in the UK and Ireland from 2009. These publications have been welcomed by industry leaders and consumer groups, but issues still remain, particularly with blinds that have been already installed.

The three new standards

EN 13120:2014 amends the previously existing European Standard on ‘Internal blinds – Performance requirements including safety’ (published in 2009), which lists the requirements that internal blinds need to fulfill when they are installed. The revision now includes all types of window blinds, including honeycomb blinds, Roman shades, Austrian/Festoon blinds, panel blinds, plantation shutters and roll-up blinds. It also pays significant attention to ‘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 which specifies test methods, which can be used to ensure that a window blind conforms to the requirements relating to ‘protection from strangulation’ as specified in EN 13120. In other words, it ensures that the window blind will be child safe when it is installed with the appropriate safety device.

EN 16434:2014 ‘Internal blinds – Protection from strangulation hazards – Requirements and Test methods for safety devices’ is also 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.  In other words it will ensure that these safety devices are fit for their purpose. As a member of the working group, I have found that a raft of untested and inappropriate safety devices have been placed in the marketplace, particularly since 2009, and it was necessary to regulate these in some way. These safety devices can either be fitted to window blinds during the manufacturing process or retro-fitted to existing window blinds.

Concerns

While these standards are very welcome a very serious problem still remains to be tackled. Those blinds that have been installed prior to the publication of these standards continue to pose a strangulation risk and continue to cause loss of life. While there have be no recorded fatalities in Ireland or the UK so far this year, two children strangled on window blind cords in the space of one week in Sydney, Australia. This is despite the fact that the Australian government passed mandatory standards in 2010.  Earlier this month a six-year-old girl got caught up in the cords of an older type venetian blind at her home in Washington, US, and subsequently died.

This was a point raised by ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardization, yesterday. Secretary-General of that body, Stephen Russell, stated that, while “they trusted that the tougher safety standards will lead to a decrease in accidents and fatalities, blinds already installed in homes continue to give concern”. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) estimate that there are approximately 200 million window blinds hanging on windows in the UK.

As a member of the EU working group charged with the drafting of these standards for the past four years, I firmly believe that their publication will lead to a reduction in the amount of fatalities through strangulation in window blind cords and chains…..in the long term. In the short-term though, I too have concerns about the existing blinds that are in place. When one considers that the average window blind remains in place for approximately ten years (in Ireland), then it will take at least that length of time before safer blinds are commonplace in homes and buildings where children are likely to be present.

Hazardous Loop

The solution

The problem is what can we do in the meantime to reduce accidents and fatalities? My answer is greater awareness and education of the general public. And this is something that Mr. Russell acknowledges. Amanda O’Halloran, from Gloucestershire, UK, who lost her 17-month-old daughter Sophie Parslow after she strangled on a window blind cord, has welcomed the introduction of tighter safety standards for window blinds, which will make them safer for young children. However, she says the legislation does not go far enough.

Speaking to the Gloucestershire Echo she said, “I am happy to know standards are changing and more is being done about blind safety, but to me it just doesn’t seem enough.

“People need to be made more aware of the dangers of blind cords.

“There need to be adverts on TV, literature about blind cord safety available to parents and advice given to them through midwife check-ups and health visitor checks.”

Since I’ve been involved in the window blind safety campaign  (since 2009) it would appear that efforts to increase public awareness of the dangers of window blind cords and chains are only made after a child has either had a near-miss or unfortunately dies from strangulation. It would appear that only tragedy creates greater awareness of the dangers. It is incumbent upon government agencies, manufacturers and retailers of window blinds to educate the public and save lives.

“For blinds already installed, ANEC advises parents to keep cords out of the reach of children and to ensure a cot, bed or playpen is not placed close to a window with corded blinds.” Parents also need to be advised that simple safety devices are available for respective window blinds with cords and chains, and these can be installed in very little time. My website, www.windowblindsafety.ie, offers advice for existing blinds and highlights the appropriate safety devices required. These are inexpensive and can be purchased from your local window blind company or from www.childsafety.ie. “One child’s life lost is one too many” (Aaron O’Connell).

Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

Aaron O’Connell is the founder of window blind safety.ie and is the Irish expert on window blind safety. He has over 30 years experience in the window blind industry. He served as chairperson of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Sub Committee on window blind safety and was a member of the EU Working Group that drafted EN13120, EN16433 and EN16434. Aaron has trained various window blind companies on child safety and has been interviewed extensively on the subject of window blind safety.

Window Blinds to be Tested for Child Safety

Friday, January 17th, 2014
Aaron O'Connell, founder of windowblindsafety.ie

Aaron O'Connell

The recent recall of potentially unsafe window blinds by hardware chain B&Q has highlighted the need for the testing of safety devices and window blinds before placing them in the marketplace. The good news is that some new European Standards have been drafted to ensure this exactly is the case.

As a member of the EU working group charged with the revision of the current standard for internal window blinds, EN13120, in 2010, we also found it necessary to ensure that there were standards that placed specific child safety requirements on products in the marketplace. These products included window blinds, and safety devices, which are now being sold separately as DIY items.

Statistics

In 1998, in a sample of hospitals in the 15 Member Sates of the European Union, 129 children were hospitalised due to an injury involving a window blind loop or drapery cord. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that one or two children die every year after becoming entangled in the cords of a blind. More recently, the Commission has become aware of ten fatal accidents involving children aged between 15 and 36 months that occurred in Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Turkey in the period 2008 to 2010. Here in Ireland there have been eight fatalities, four of which have occurred in the last five years.  In the United States 119 fatalities and 111 near-misses involving corded window coverings were reported to have occurred since 1999. In Canada, 28 fatalities and 23 near-misses have been linked to the same products since 1986. In Australia, at least 10 children have been accidentally strangled by blinds cords since 2000. However, these figures capture only a part of the problem, as many such accidents are not reported.

Research indicates that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in bedrooms and the children concerned are aged between 16 months and 36 months. Over half these accidents happen to children around 23 months. Although fully mobile at that age, children find it difficult to free themselves if they become entangled in the cords, as their heads still weigh more in proportion to their bodies compared to adults, and their muscular control is not yet fully developed. In addition, their windpipes have not yet fully developed and are thus smaller and less rigid than in adults and older children, so that they suffocate more quickly if their necks are constricted. As I have stated in previous articles, it only takes 50 seconds before a child loses its life.

New Standards

The current EU standard for internal window blinds, EN13120, specifies the requirements which internal blinds shall fulfil when fitted to a building. It deals also with the significant machinery hazards relating to construction, transport, installation, operation and maintenance of the internal blinds. In 2010 the EU Commission requested that the standard be revised with increased emphasis on child safety requirements.

While revising this standard the working group found it necessary to draft two new documents. These will be published this year. The first standard specifies test methods for the verification of the requirements related to the protection from strangulation hazards as specified in EN 13120. In other words, it outlines what tests need to be carried out on window blinds to ensure they are child safe.

The second new European Standard specifies requirements and test methods for the safety devices that are being used in internal window blinds. This standard is necessary due to the proliferation of safety devices offered for sale as DIY items. Any safety devices offered for sale in the marketplace must pass these tests before they can be offered for sale.

Overall, all three standards will go a long way towards ensuring window blinds and safety devices are child safe.

Conclusion

It is vital, though, that these standards, when published, are policed by government authorities. It is also necessary that those manufacturing and retailing window blinds and ancillary products are, not only informed and educated about these new requirements, but are also made aware of the implications of any negligence.

I suppose the most vital ingredient is the matter of installation. A blind may be child safe in it’s packaging, but unless it is installed with child safety in mind, all of the steps taken by manufacturers and retailers will be in vain. As part of the requirements of the new standards, installation instructions for the window blind and the safety device must be provided to the end-user.  Traceability will also record when professionals, who are supplied by retailers, have installed blinds. These professionals need to be aware that they are the last line of defence. Proper installation on their part will save lives!

Too many children have died needlessly, and simple measures could have been taken that would have saved those lives. Proper testing of window blinds and safety devices is vital to ensure they are child safe, before placing them for sale. Regulations in the General Product Safety Directive place the onus on manufacturers and retailers to ensure that their products are child safe.  Hopefully, these new standards will clarify matters and save lives. Remember, one child’s life lost is one too many!

B&Q Recalls Window Blinds Over Child Safety Concerns

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Aaron O’Connell

Hardware store B&Q has identified potential safety issues with some of their window blind products, and this has led them to recall the affected products and to offer full refunds to customers.

The products involved are listed below and involve all sizes and colours in those ranges, which were purchased from October 2010 until October 2013 for the Bamboo Blinds, and from April 2012 until October 2013 for the Roman Blinds.

  • Bamboo blind natural / chocolate
  • Colours zanni bamboo blind natural
  • Toba bamboo chocolate roll up slat blinds
  • Mallee and drupe roman blinds

According to B&Q’s website “the break cord safety device on some blinds may not operate correctly” and this may pose a hazard to young children.

B&Q has provided the following helpline number for Republic of Ireland residents: 1800 946 327
(Monday to Friday 8.30am to 8.00pm, Saturday 9.00am to 5.00pm). For UK residents the helpline number is + 44 (0) 800 389 0419.