How Safe Are Your Window Coverings?

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
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Over the past 20 years, there have been several deaths of young children attributed to strangulation form cords on window coverings.

This has prompted a world wide response in window covering safety, which has come into place more recently in Australia with the Competition and Consumer (Corded Internal Window Coverings) Safety Standard 2014. Basically, this standard ensures that all blinds installed in trade or commerce meet the same minimum safety requirements.

So, what are the basic requirements? Professional installers must attach a label to products with looped cords or chains at the time of installation. The label contains such information as a warning about the present danger of looped cords to children, as well as the name and contact details of the person or company responsible for the installation. This label is particularly relevant to blinds that operate via cord or chain control and accompanies a supplied safety device that anchors the chain/cord back to the wall.

Cord Tidy

Cord tidy

There has been a little bit of confusion about this new standard, which was introduced on January 1, 2015. Customers cannot ask the installer to disregard the safety devices for whatever reason (for instance if they don’t want an extra hole drilled in the wall.)

As a window covering supplier for 26 years, my response is generally that I am the one with the legal responsibility, and I am the one who may be fined (and the fine is hefty) if the safety devices are not attached according to the rules. Generally customers are reasonable and really don’t want me to get into trouble.

I always get the client to sign a disclaimer that all safety devices and labels have been installed correctly. This disclaimer goes in their file for future reference if needed. I harbour no illusions that some clients will remove the safety device or at the very least the labels as soon as I leave the building!

The service standard is not retroactive; there are no requirements to add safety devices or labels if blinds already exist. However, clients can review their installations and engage a professional installer to add these if desired. Also, the law is not enforced in commercial buildings where obviously a risk to children is greatly lessened.

In the case of DIY installers, once again the safety rules are not enforced. This becomes a problem if a client buys products that are custom made from a retailer and installs themselves without the safety devices. It becomes unclear as to where the liability is placed. Those who reside in rental properties are unfortunately often given the incorrect information from their agents. Maybe they are told they are not allowed to drill the holes for safety devices; maybe they have to replace all blinds that are not compliant, and so on. In fact, if you are a tenant and installing blinds (of course you will already have the permission of the owner), you must also mention you will be installing the safety devices. A real estate agent or landlord cannot refuse safety devices being correctly installed. If you already have blinds that are not compliant, once again your agent or landlord cannot refuse the installation of safety devices.

If you have recently purchased a ready-made blind that does not contain a child safety device, you can report it to the ACCC. There are still cases (usually with cheap imports) where blinds are non-compliant and therefore illegal in Australia. Cheap does not mean safe!

Of course, not all window coverings require safety devices or labels. Many blinds can be motorised, spring loaded or crank operated, and these mechanisms present no danger of strangulation.

Common sense must prevail also. Do not place cots or small children’s beds near a window where there might be a possibility of strangulation. I cannot believe how many times I have walked into a baby’s room to see a cot directly under a window when there are many other parts of the room where the cot could be positioned!

My suggestion is to go through your home or office and check out the presence of safety devices. To avoid future issues, it might be worth your while to engage a professional to make those window coverings compliant!

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