Archive for category Childrens’ safety

Is Your Child the Next Humpty Dumpty?

Excuse my logic but aren’t bunk beds and open bleachers like the types at high school athletic fields just open invitations for disaster?   Now before you peg me as a killjoy or a paranoid quack, I’ll ask you to read through to the end.

First we’ll examine the state of bleachers.  In the 1990s through the past decade much has been written on the high incidence of accidents that occur to people who sit on these seats watching sporting events, circuses, concerts and other events.

The good news is, there are very few fatalities that occur.  According to one website I visited, in 1999, there were only two fatalities to children from bleacher accidents for that entire year. Now even two is two too many. Another website called reported in October 14, 2009 that between 1980 and 1999 there were a total of four fatalities to children under the age of 15.  However considering the number of actual accidents that occur each year nationwide, we are really playing with fire. The 1999 statistics indicate that for that year there were 22,100 injuries involving bleacher seats nationwide and children under the age of 15 accounted for 4,910 of them. 

Responding to the rash of incidents with bleachers at the turn of the millennium, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report outlining a number of recommendations to improve bleacher safety suggesting a major overhaul of the existing stock.  One major recommendation was to “retrofit” bleachers with safety panels in the open spaces where risers would normally be.

There were numerous other recommendations, but the three most noteworthy beyond that for safety panels were:

  • Installation of guardrails on top of and along the sides of any bleacher seats where the top row of seats were more than 30” above ground level. Nowhere in the guardrail should a 4” diameter sphere be able to pass through.
  • Presence of nonskid surfaces in all the aisles of the bleachers.
  • Sealing off the area under bleachers to prevent curious youngsters from crawling or walking underneath.

I visited the high school athletic fields of four affluent communities in my neighborhood recently. To some degree, the CPSC safety recommendations of more than a decade ago sadly remain unheeded.

In two of the towns, all the four aforementioned improvements had been affected.  However, in the two other towns I found the following.

In the one town, bleachers rising some 20 feet high had not been fitted with safety panels in the risers’ area.  As well, the area underneath these huge edifices was not enclosed.  As well, on this town’s 48”to 54” high mini bleachers the only recommendation it fulfilled was for nonslip surfaces on the foot areas. No guardrails, no panels for the risers and no enclosure of the areas underneath. Dismal!

In the other town, again, we see bleachers that rise some 12 feet in the air, and the only recommendation complied with was for nonslip surfaces.  Shame on them!

It has guardrails, but without chain link or mesh.


I also visited a small sampling of athletic fields in my neighborhood other than high school facilities. Here, we find mainly mini-bleachers but in almost all cases above the 30” maximum height for having no guardrails.

On one field, all recommendations except for securing the area underneath were met.  Okay, things are looking up.

However, on the other two fields, again we find that only nonslip surfaces were present.  No safety panels for risers, no guardrails, and no enclosing of the areas underneath. Abysmal!

Now what about bunk beds?  My recommendation to any parent considering the purchase of this type of furniture is to exercise extreme caution.  Strangely enough, from what I’ve read, there is a higher incidence of accidents involving strangulation between the safety bars and the mattress or between the individual rungs in the safety bars themselves than there is from falling out of the bed. 

This brings up an interesting connection between the aforementioned safety standards for bleachers and those for bunk beds.  I visited a local bedding store and noted on the safety disclaimer labels for bunk beds that they recommend no more than 5” of space between the top of the mattress and the nearest safety bar rung.  This is meant to prevent a youngster’s head and thus his neck from getting caught between the mattress and the safety bar.  If you recall, the maximum allowable space between a guardrail and the bleachers it is on meant to prevent the same accident is 4”.  Would someone please tell me what is the correct diameter of the average 2 to 8 year olds’ head so the bleacher people and bunk bed people can get on the same page?  Also of note, the bunk bed warnings aptly suggest no child less than six years of age to be on the top bunk.  Yet do you think playful kids are aware of that warning late at night when mom and dad are asleep?

Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that on a number of bunk beds I looked at, the distance between the top of the mattress and the ONLY safety bar present on the top bunk was 5”.    I offer you this observation. In my job as an Alzheimer’s patient caregiver, I have seen a six foot tall man in a restless state almost crawl right over a 10” high rail where he would have fallen to the floor.  Hence, is it not equally possible for a 3 to 3 ½ feet tall highly mobile youngster to crawl over a puny 5” rail and fall to the floor? I think we all know the answer. 

In conclusion, hug your child after reading this and protect them from hazards such as the above.  Your children after all should be your greatest treasure.


Copyright 2009; Greg S.

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment