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Child Safety- are we doing our bit?

cAt present there is no specific UK legislation to tackle the issue, unlike the USA and chairman Mike Derham believes it’s time we had our own.

It’s every parent’s nightmare that an open window on whatever floor could result in an injury or even a fatality to a young child. The statistics are saddening and at present UK standards only cover the issue through Building Regulations Part B – Fire Safety, BS 9999:2008, BS 5588-1:1990 and BS8213-1:2004.

While fire safety is quite rightly covered in the Building Regulations and though British Standards, there’s a clear need for Child Safety to be covered as a single standard or through legislation. Our own estimates from historical data from RoSPA’s Home Safety Facts and Figures, suggest that around 4,000 children under the age of 15 are injured as a result of falling from an opening window, along with a saddening number of fatalities.

On 8th February 2013, the Daily Mail reported the fatality of a young child who fell to his death through a supposedly child-safe window thinking he was invincible like his hero Spider-Man. In another story from 8th March, 2013 in the same paper, a four-year-old boy died after falling from the top-floor window of a block of flats in Pollokshields, Glasgow.

Clearly there is a need for child safety to be addressed by the industry. Even the public sector has fallen foul of the issue of safety at height when the West Suffolk NHS was prosecuted for safety failings, after a vulnerable patient was seriously injured in a fall from an unrestricted first floor hospital window.

At present BS8213-1:2004 covers the design for safety in use and during cleaning of windows, including door-height windows and roof windows. This British Standard gives recommendations on safety restrictors and the arrangement of window controls, to safeguard occupants and passers-by.

More specifically the standard requires that the safety restrictors that are used on windows suitable for escape in case of fire must:  limit the opening to less than 100mm; provide a child proof release; is easily operated by adult; must re-engage automatically and that they do not use tools or keys to operate.

In the USA we have been actively involved in child safety when it comes to windows and have sat on the Window Safety Task Force of the National Safety Council. The result of this work was the introduction of the ASTM F2090-2008 and 2010 codes and if only one child is saved as a direct result then the effort will have been more than worth it.

This code in the USA specifies when opening restrictors are needed in terms of cill height, device operation and release, force needed to open the restrictor, automatic reset function, product testing and emergency escape and egress. A further element of the standard is that any installed devices cannot hinder the general operation of the window and in particular egress in case of fire.

A lot of the key elements of ASTM F2090-2008 and 2010 are covered in British Standards, but because there is not a single standard relating to child safety then there is considerable confusion. A specifier or homeowner looking at opening restrictors may assume that whatever BS standard it conforms to is one relating to child safety, which clearly isn’t the case and hence my belief that the whole issue of child safety needs to be addressed.

Over the course of June we have put together our own TV campaign, which depicts a small child playing in an upstairs bedroom with a window open and the suggestion that something as simple as a teddy being thrown out of a window followed by the child. It’s an overwhelmingly strong message but something we believe at Mighton Products needs to be addressed further within the industry.

I would go on to suggest that we could follow the framework of the code that was established in the USA, but a leading body must champion this. As an industry we could lobby RoSPA to make it a live campaign as they have had particular success with their own Blind Cord Safety Campaign.

The Mighton Products Angel Ventlock™ window control device has been proven in many thousands of vertical sliding sashes and horizontal sliders across the globe. However, there are also a number of third party solutions for other window styles, most notably the casement that dominates the UK market, but they are not designed to a specific standard and we are already working on our own casement solution to address this issue. The fatalities highlighted in the Daily Mail would more than likely not have happened if we had the relevant standards and legislation, along with a proven safety device product range.

Unfortunately there is to a degree, a lack of awareness of the issue at hand of child safety when it comes to the window industry for a multitude of reasons. Over the past few years we’ve been focused on energy efficiency through new Building Regulations and fire escape, but perhaps now we can direct our efforts to an area that I believe we need to address, child safety. I hope that our TV campaign and also our sponsorship of GM Fundraising’s Hope 66 cycling adventure are the start of a journey to solid legislation that can help greatly to reduce these awful statistics.