A leading professional has lent his authority to the debate around legislative action that requires property owners to install safety devices on windows in high-rise apartments.
Associate professor and neurosurgeon Brian Owler of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead has welcomed recent changes to the law that apply to all new buildings constructed after May 2013.
The alterations have been applied to the National Construction Code and require apartments and high-rise dwellings to have special devices or ‘crimps’ to be installed on all windows above the ground floor, limiting their openings to 100 millimetres.
Professor Owler is a councillor of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Medical Association and the starring figure in a series of government ads urging motorists to watch their speed.
The experienced medical professional has written a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald on February 16 that explains the facts behind his decision to push forward with more changes to the building code.
In it, he says that as many as 50 children a year are sent to hospital after suffering a fall from a window or balcony, some with chilling results.
Owler wrote about the fact that many of these young victims fall head-first, leading to a high percentage of injuries to the skull and brain.
The neurosurgeon asserted: “As they see the ground rushing towards them they try to protect themselves with outstretched hands. I know this because they often break both wrists. Their head then hits the pavement.
“And yet another child is admitted to intensive care after a preventable fall. Of course, some don’t make it to hospital.”
While the medical professional acknowledges that parental responsibility should play a large role in keeping young people safe, he also points out that the environment in which they live play a large part in that safety.
“Children are inquisitive, resourceful and unpredictable. It takes moments for them to pull a chair over to a window.”
Owler also points out that the changes would not be difficult to implement across the country, in the same way that the mandatory deployment of smoke alarms in all rental properties in NSW was efficiently handled.
He explains that a range of inexpensive products are already available on the market that could be used to prevent these injuries and that it should be the responsibility of “landlords and owners’ corporations” to ensure they are used.
While a personal injury lawyer is able to assist the families of victims in exploring their legal options, the installation of these devices could actively help to save lives.