01.05.2011

Flyscreens Do Not Prevent Falls From Windows

There is a common misconception that fly screens are strong enough to prevent a child falling through a window

There have been a number of incidences of children falling through flyscreens on open windows over recent times. Whilst the main focus of these – often tragic – events has been in NSW, the issue is prevalent nationally, and sadly, even internationally.

Most people are surprised to see a cat get out of a window that narrow, let alone a child. And yet they do, often with tragic consequences.

Children who do survive a fall from an open window higher than ground level often sustain serious injuries that they will suffer from for the rest of their life.

Tragically, children between ages 1 to 5 are most at risk, because they are curious, quick, and have not yet learned to recognise dangerous situations.

There is a common misconception that fly screens are strong enough to prevent a child falling through a window. Regrettably they are not, and this is something to keep in mind when designing your clients’ homes and keeping in mind a safe environment for young ones.

The Australian Windows Association held meetings at Westmead Children’s Hospital in 2011, and the AWA has taken the initiative of designing warning labels that can be adhered to flyscreen frames. These are available for purchase from the AWA. For further information, visit www.awa.org.au or email the AWA at info@awa.org.au

The following is an extract from a report from The Childrens Hospital, Westmead, and provides further information about this issue.

An increasing number of children are admitted to hospital each year as a result of falling from windows and balconies. These falls are often in their own home, and can result in death or serious injury.

Children aged from one to five years are most at risk, as they are naturally curious but lack the ability to recognise danger. Falls occur more often in the warmer months when families leave windows and doors to balconies open, both during the day and at night. There are no laws that require windows and balustrades in older buildings to meet current and safer building standards. There are, however, things that can be done to improve safety.

Balcony Safety

To prevent children falling from your balcony, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead recommends that:

  • balustrades, where possible:
    – be at least one metre high;
    – vertical bars must be no more than 12.5cm apart (use ruler above to measure the gaps between your vertical balustrade posts);
    – have no horizontal or near horizontal parts that would allow children to climb;
  • all furniture, pot plants and other climbable objects are kept away from the edge of balconies;
  • home-owners be aware of furniture that is light enough for children to drag to the balcony edge;
  • children are always supervised.

Window Safety

Children can fall out of a window which is open more than 10cm, even if a fly screen is fitted.

To prevent children falling from windows, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead recommends that:

  • all windows, especially bedroom windows, where possible:
    – not be opened more than 10cm when located above the ground floor;
    – have window latches/locks fitted to stop windows opening more than 10cm, or guards to protect the opening;
    – open from the top;
  • beds and other furniture are kept away from windows, so that children cannot use them to climb up to the windows;
  • you do not rely on fly screens to prevent a child falling out of a window;
  • children are taught to play away from windows;
  • children are always supervised.

Architectural Window Systems have a section at their website on preventing falls from windows and balconies – CLICK HERE for more information.