The global spotlight is being shone on blind cord safety, as RoSPA and other organisations across the world join to highlight the potentially deadly danger posed to children in our own homes.
The family safety charity is supporting this year’s OECD Global Awareness-raising Campaign on Window Covering Cords – also known as blind cords.
Since 1999 there have been 28 confirmed child deaths linked to looped blind cords across the UK, and RoSPA is all too aware of the devastation they can cause.
In October 2010, 17-month-old Leah Edwards died after she became entangled in a looped blind cord. Since then, her family has been campaigning tirelessly to raise awareness, including via a Your Stories blog on RoSPA’s website.
Her mother Joy said: “We never thought that the blind in Leah’s bedroom could be deadly – it is so important that parents are made aware of the risks. It is hard to talk about losing our beloved daughter, but if it saves at least one life then it is more than worth it.
“I would urge people to ensure that blind cords are tied up and out of the reach of young children – there are a variety of safety devices available that are inexpensive and easy to install.”
In May, Northern Ireland’s coroner Joseph McCrisken also urged parents to take action after the death of a two-year-old boy, describing looped blind cords as “lethal and silent killers”.
Strangulation, which happens quickly and silently, occurs most often in children’s bedrooms and living rooms, but can happen anywhere there is an unsafe blind cord.
Huge steps have been made through initiatives such as the Make It Safe campaign, of which RoSPA is a part, working with the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA) and others. This has resulted in changes to standards improving the safety of newer blinds. In the past year, Ikea has also halted the sale of blinds with unsafe cords.
But millions of homes still have older, dangerous blinds that have no safety devices fitted.
Ashley Martin, RoSPA’s public health project manager, said: “We’re pleased to support this week’s OECD campaign, and hope that it contributes to saving lives in this country and around the world.
“Our advice to families is to check all the cords currently in your home – tie up cords or use one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available. Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and out of reach.
“Install blinds that do not have a cord, particularly in a child’s bedroom, and make sure to place children’s cots, beds, playpens and highchairs away from windows.”
Andrew Chalk, director of operations for the BBSA, said: “The BBSA fully supports the OECD initiative and the simple but vital safety messages it promotes.
“The BBSA established the Make It Safe campaign in 2009 to drive improvements in the safety of internal blinds and promote their safe use. All new blinds must comply with child safety standards introduced in 2014 but making existing blinds safer is quick and simple too – the Make It Safe website (www.makeitsafe.org.uk) has videos which show how.”
RoSPA is the UK’s flagbearer for the OECD campaign, which can be followed with the hashtags #SafeWindowCoverings and #SafeCurtains.
Over 200 blind cord fitters and suppliers inspected by local Councils
Internal blind cords are responsible for the death of 32 children between the ages of 15 months and 36 months in the UK since 1999.
Sixteen of these avoidable deaths have occurred since the beginning of 2010. In Northern Ireland alone there have been three blind cord deaths in the past three years.
Children can become entangled on hanging cords when playing, climbing or exploring near window blinds. It can take less than a minute for a child to lose their life on one window cord.
Mid Ulster District Council is working hard to prevent accidental death from blind cords. The clear message to those who manufacture, import, distribute or sell (including supply and fit) internal window blinds is to only supply ‘safe products’ as is their legal duty under ‘The General Product Safety Regulations 2005’.
As part of a regional initiative during 2016, councils across Northern Ireland visited 232 blind manufacturers and suppliers to provide advice on placing products on the market that are safe and comply with the regulations.
The stringent new standards governing the manufacture, sale and installation of new internal window blinds mean that all internal blinds now have to display warning labels on the front of blinds as well as on the packaging. They must include safety instructions, as well as safety devices to ensure blind cords are kept out of the reach of young children.
Where there is a likelihood of young children 0-42 months being present, there is a new maximum cord and chain length being imposed which affects homes and public places including hotels, hospitals, schools, shops, places of worship and nurseries.
Councils are also discouraging the use of internal blinds with looped cords and support innovators developing cordless blinds or blinds with concealed systems.
The onus is on retailers and fitters to supply and install blinds with the appropriate safety devices to comply with the law and to prevent avoidable death. The industry is also encouraged to promote safety messages and provide and fit safety devices where required, especially to blinds already fitted in homes.
Chair of the Environment Committee, Councillor Christine McFlynn is delighted these more stringent checks are taking place. She said “Given the amount of deaths of infants and young children because of blind cords, any regulations and guidance that will reduce the likelihood of more deaths occurring, is certainly welcome in my view. I commend the Council for undertaking this work.”
Council Home Safety Officers are also on hand to help homeowners and raise awareness of the dangers of blind cords. They can supply blind cord safety devices to homes with children under 5 years of age through the Home Safety Check Service.
Consumers who are concerned can find advice from British Blind and Shutter Associations (BBSA): http://www.bbsa.org.uk or from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA): http://www.rospa.com
For further information contact Environmental Health on 03000 132 132 or email EnvironmentalHealth@Midulstercouncil.org or visit http://www.midulstercouncil.org/Community/Blind-Cord-Safety