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'Make TVs safe' says charity

Thursday 10 December 2009

“Parents are being warned of the dangers of flat-screen televisions,” the Daily Mail reported. It said that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has highlighted a US study that estimated that 8,000 children in the US are injured by televisions every year.

This warning from RoSPA has been made at a time of year when many families buy new televisions. The charity has a list of precautions aimed at minimising the risk of children being injured, which is included below.

What did the US study find?

This study from the US estimated the frequency, between 1990 and 2007, of injuries to children and teenagers from furniture tipping over. Estimates were based on figures from a database of emergency department visits from a sample of hospitals across the US for injuries associated with consumer products.

The researchers estimated that there were about 14,700 of these injuries every year in the 18-year period, which is about 21 injuries for every 100,000 people in the population. The rate of these injuries increased 41% over this period, and three-quarters of injuries were in children aged six years or younger.

The piece of furniture that most commonly caused injury was the television, which was responsible for nearly half of the incidents (47.4%). The researchers suggest that televisions have become larger and heavier over time, and the weight may often be “disproportionately located toward the front of a conventional television”. They say that this, in combination with the fact that televisions may be placed on furniture not designed to hold their weight, makes them more likely to fall when pulled or knocked by a child, bringing the supporting furniture with them.

Are flat-screen TVs particularly to blame?

This study did not investigate the specific types of television that were involved in these incidents. The researchers suggest that flat-screen televisions “could lead to fewer tip-over-related injuries, because they are not as front-heavy as traditional televisions and may be less prone to tipping”. However, any television that is not securely placed could present a risk.

How common are these incidents in the UK?

The RoSPA states that it is aware of four cases in the UK since July 2008 in which children under the age of four have been killed by a television falling on them. One of these cases was reported to involve a flat-screen television, but it is not clear what type of television was involved in the other cases.

It reports that the UK’s home accident database was closed in 2002, before flat-screen TVs became widespread. In that year, 2,300 under-fives went to hospital after television-related home accidents, as well as about 7,000 people over the age of five. In most cases, the under-fives had been struck by a falling television set.

What has RoSPA said?

The deputy chief executive of RoSPA said: “From time to time, RoSPA believes it is important to raise awareness of the potential for accidents to happen before an injury trend emerges in the UK. In this instance, we have taken note of the findings of US research, which studied a huge number of furniture tip-over cases from an 18-year period. Not only did the research find that the number of such injuries had increased, but that televisions were the most commonly involved item of furniture.

“With flat-screen televisions becoming increasingly popular and many families likely to have a new set for Christmas, now is a crucial time to talk about safety. We urge people to ensure that free-standing television sets cannot be easily pulled over by children and that wall-mounted sets are securely fixed to walls that are strong enough to hold them.”

What does RoSPA recommend?

In general, the likelihood of your child being injured by a falling TV is probably relatively small. However, taking steps to ensure that your TV is in an appropriate place and is secure will help to reduce this risk even further. RoSPA recommends that:

  • Free-standing, flat-screen televisions are placed on a wide, stable, manufacturers’ base (designed to accompany the television), which reduces the risk of the screen toppling forwards. In addition, tethering straps should run from the top of the back of the screen to a stable anchoring point, such as a wall-mounted bracket.
  • Wall-mounted televisions are securely fixed to solid walls. Where internal walls are made of plasterboard, the fixing brackets should be attached to underlying wooden studs. If in any doubt about this, make use of the services of a skilled tradesperson or qualified installer.
  • Where possible, children are kept out of the way while bulky, heavy objects, such as televisions, are being moved.
  • Children, particularly toddlers, are discouraged from pulling themselves up by holding on to a television set or furniture on which a television sits, or from climbing over a television.

Links to the headlines

Flatscreen TV warning following rise in number of children killed by 'tip-overs'

Daily Mail, 10 December 2009

Links to the science

Gottesman BL, Lara B. McKenzie LB, Conner KA, Smith GA.

Injuries From Furniture Tip-overs Among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 1990-2007

Clinical Pediatrics 2009; 48:851-858