Child injuries preventable with safety net devices

Date: Jan 25, 2012

With the increased popularity of apartment block housing in Sydney, more and more children are suffering critical injuries due to high falls.

According to a report published by the Sydney Morning Herald on January 24, there were 39 serious cases involving young victims falling from heights treated at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick.

This figure is nearly double the number experienced in previous years – with only 23 cases reported between 2004 and 2008.

The rise in accidents could be linked to the growing cost of housing in the state, with families finding apartments to be both increasingly affordable and convenient than detached housing in more remote locations.

While strata protocols often require mandatory safety features such as window crimps and high balcony railings, these measure are sometimes not enough to keep a child from working their way onto a ledge or slipping to the ground below.

Features such as fly screens can be pushed out by a determined child and guard rails can often be reached from furniture.

Under the laws that regulate public liability, the person or private entity that owns a piece of property is responsible for the hazards it poses to personal safety.

Failure to reduce these risks can result in personal injury that requires expensive medical treatments and rehabilitation costs.

When children are concerned, a slip or fall from a height could mean their parents have to provide full-time care while they recover and are thus unable to work.

In these cases a personal injury lawyer can help to deliver the legal assets a victim’s family needs to gain access to compensation payments that can cover the medical costs as well as assisting with everyday expenses.

While safety netting and window crimping is not yet mandatory on high-rise apartments, strata law expert at the University of New South Wales Cathy Sherry has likened it to being as essential as stout fences around a swimming pool.

General editor of the Property Law Review, Sherry asserted: “All they have to do is change the strata laws to make it mandatory for the owners’ corporation to make sure windows can be locked to an opening of no more than 10 centimetres, which is the width of a baby’s head.”

She says that this change would help to spread the responsibility of identifying hazards and reducing risks to both tenants and property owners, while also helping to reduce the chance of critical injuries to small children living in Sydney apartments.

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