Safety: Furniture tip-over prevention

  • Children love to explore their environment, and through climbing, they can find ways to access out-of-reach items or toys. Free-standing furniture, appliances, and televisions are often the right height to climb on, but are unstable and can easily topple, causing serious injuries or even death if a child is underneath.

    On average, two children die each year and hundreds more injured because of toppling furniture and televisions. Children under 10 years old are most at risk, and more than half of tip-over injuries involve a child under 4 years old.

    Main causes of injury

    Unstable items like bookcases, chests of drawers, cupboards, wardrobes and free-standing mirrors are usually unsecured, leaving them susceptible to toppling. Most furniture tip-over deaths are caused by asphyxiation due to the crushing weight of such heavy furniture and household items. Other injuries caused by furniture tip-overs can include:

    • broken bones, fractures or dislocations
    • cuts or open wounds
    • crush (chest) injuries
    • internal injuries
    • amputation
    • brain injury.

    Improving safety

    You can take quick, easy and low-cost steps to prevent furniture tip-over deaths and injuries. With a little effort, 100 per cent of tip-over incidents can be prevented. To make your home safe:

    • Secure televisions and tall or unstable furniture to wall studs or floors with appropriate anchoring devices. Brackets, braces or wall straps can be used, and these can be purchased from hardware stores or furniture retailers.
    • Follow the directions provided with new furniture or appliances on how to install any anchoring equipment supplied.
    • Install child-resistant locks on drawers to prevent drawers from being opened and used as steps to climb on.
    • Open only one drawer at a time and close all drawers that you’re not using.
    • Store heavy items on lower shelves or drawers of bookcases, wardrobes or cupboards.
    • Don’t place televisions or heavy objects on top of chests of drawers or furniture not intended for use with a television.
    • Discourage children from climbing on furniture.
    • Avoid putting tempting items (e.g. favourite toys, lollies, remote controls) on top of furniture, as this may encourage climbing.
    • Don’t place unstable furniture in children’s bedrooms or near play areas.
    • Encourage others to anchor furniture around their homes, particularly if your children regularly visit (e.g. grandparents).

    How to install anchoring devices

    When looking to install an anchoring device, you need to consider the weight and dimensions of the furniture to ensure any anchor attachments are strong enough to hold the item.

    It is also very important to use the right anchoring device for the wall or floor material. Different screws types are available for wood studs, plasterboard or masonry. Consult with your local hardware retailer for advice.

    If you are unsure about how to install an anchoring device, or what anchor you need to purchase, it is a good idea to talk to a professional (e.g. handyman or carpenter) who can install or advise you correctly.

    Rental properties

    If you’re renting a home, you should speak with your landlord or agent to get permission before you install anchor devices to the wall or floors, but don’t let this process put you off securing your furniture. Offer to repair damage (e.g. drill holes) caused by the installation of any anchor devices once the tenancy ends. You should get approval in writing to have a record of your agreement.

    Tips when buying new furniture

    When buying furniture, ask staff to advise on safer options for homes with small children. You should also consider the following:

    • Choose storage furniture that is low-set with a sturdy, wide base that sits directly on the floor (rather than on legs).
    • Look for furniture that comes with safety information and appropriate equipment for anchoring it to the floor or wall.
    • Test furniture in the shop before purchasing (e.g. pull out a drawer and apply a little pressure to check that it is stable and ensure drawers cannot be pulled out easily).

    Legal requirements

    During 2017, safety regulators reviewed retailers across Australia and found that very few (only 12 per cent) supplied anchors for any furniture that required them. Although there are no legal requirements or standards, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has encouraged suppliers and retailers to ensure appropriate anchoring devices are supplied to consumers, better in-store signage is displayed, and warning labels are affixed to products, to improve safety and reduce the risk of tip-overs.

    Key points to remember

    • Always anchor furniture and televisions to the wall or floor using appropriate equipment.
    • Discourage children from climbing on furniture.
    • Store heavy items on the lower shelves or drawers of bookcases, wardrobes or cupboards and install child-resistant locks on drawers.

    For more information


    First published February 2018. 

    This information is awaiting routine review. Please always seek the most recent advice from a registered and practising clinician.

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