How have blind cords been involved in accidents?
We typically hear about one or two children dying after becoming entangled in blind cords in the UK each year and there are many more near misses.
The danger for young children is that a loop which hangs at waist height for an adult could slip around the neck of a young child if he or she falls or, if the loop is at floor level, it could become wrapped around the neck of a baby who is crawling.
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 (over half) happens 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, their windpipes have not yet fully developed and are smaller and less rigid than adults and older children, making them suffocate more quickly if their necks are constricted.
There have also been cases in which babies have been accidentally strangled by cord loops hanging into their cots. Where there are young children present in the home, our advice is to tie looped blind cords up out of the reach of young children.
RoSPA does not recommend that cords are cut, even as a short-term solution. It is advisable that any action taken on the blind cord is a permanent one which will take the cord out of reach of children. It is not an expensive task and cleats will be made available to those who need them from the RoSPA website!
Cutting the cord in the wrong place can make the blind inoperable; and it may also lead to one cord becoming a lot longer which increases the risk of entanglement. Cut cords can also become tangled up resulting in the reformation of a loop.
The supervision of young children also plays a vital part in reducing the likelihood of accidents happening.
This issue is currently being examined by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, who are meeting with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), CAPT (Child Accident Prevention Trust) and the BBSA (British Blind and Shutter Association) to call for better regulations to govern the design, manufacture, supply and installation of window blinds.
The British Blind and Shutter Association have produced an information leaflet (Make it Safe campaign) which is available from: http://www.bbsa.org.uk/docs/BBSA-Cord-safety-leaflet-140809.pdf see also:
http://www.bbsa.org.uk/domestic/safetyissues.aspx for solutions to make blinds of different styles safer.
Many millions of blinds are sold every year in the UK and the BBSA has some simple guidelines for parents and carers of babies and small children as looped blind cords can pose a potential hazard:
- Do not place a child’s cot, bed, playpen or high chair near a window so they may reach a blind cord
- Do not place furniture near a window that a child could climb on to reach a blind cord
- Do make sure that a safety device is fitted to keep the cords taut or out of reach
Two children die in unrelated freak accidents after being strangled by window blind cords
Last updated at 4:02 PM on 15th February 2010
Tragic: Harrison Joyce died after strangling on a window blind cord
Two children have been strangled to death by window blind cords in separate but almost identical accidents in the space of five days.
Sixteen-month-old Lillian Bagnall-Lambe, of Stafford, died last Tuesday after becoming entangled in the blind.
The tragedy follows the death of three-year-old Harrison Joyce, who was killed at his home in nearby Lichfield five days earlier.
Harrison was believed to have been acting out action moves from cartoon series ‘Go Diego’ when he became tangled in the cord and was killed. He had been left alone for a matter of minutes.
His parents have since launched ‘Harrison’s Law’ – a campaign to have looped cords on curtains and blinds banned in the United Kingdom. The design is already outlawed in The United States, Australia and Canada.
Fatalities are caused by the cord slipping accidentally around a child’s neck, strangling them and cutting off their blood supply as they try to release themselves.
The strangulation takes just a matter of seconds and leaves children with no chance of being revived.
Harrison’s father Scott Joyce, who manages several businesses and coaches childrens’ football in Norton Canes, said the family would do anything to see the cords banished.
The 37-year-old said: ‘Our lives will never be the same again. Every day is a struggle and pouring everything into the campaign is all I can do.
‘It makes me so angry that this has happened again. Harrison’s legacy must be to have these cords banned and save thousands of lives. Parents must be made aware of this danger.’
Jo Stagg, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, is calling on families to take action before there are further casualties.
‘To have two identical incidents in the same area and in such a short space of time is shocking,’ she said.
‘We need to get the message across to parents who can reduce the risk. They can tie knots in the cords or cut them up.
‘When they are at waist height for adults children can slip into them, at floor level they can trip into them and become tangled, and there have been cases of cords dangling over cots leaving children to become tangled as they sleep at night.’
Det Insp Vicky Roberts, of Staffordshire Police, the force which investigated both incidents, said: ‘These heart-breaking accidents highlight the dangers that are present in homes.
‘It is vital that parents do all they can to make their properties as safe as possible for their young children.
‘We would urge them to go around their home looking at all potential risks and thinking about how to reduce the danger posed by what may, on the surface, appear to be innocuous items.’
Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh said: ‘I am saddened to have these two deaths reported to me.
‘In due course I will be holding full inquests into the deaths but I feel it is appropriate at this time that parents of young children are reminded of the potential danger of blind cords.’
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