Furniture labels and new laws could save lives

Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that tempts children to climb up and reach.
Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that tempts children to climb up and reach.

Recent ACCC data estimates the annual cost of injury and death caused by unsafe consumer products, including furnishings, is at least $5 billion.

There are around 780 deaths and around 52,000 injuries per year from products that many Australians have in their homes, including children's deaths caused by suffocation in cots and beds.

An estimated 50 people receive hospital treatment for injuries caused by toppling furniture and televisions each week. Toppling has caused the death of at least 22 Australian children under the age of nine in the last 15 years.

Bunk beds and bean bags topped the list of unsafe furnishing products reported in 2018 and eBay was prominent amongst the sellers under scrutiny.

Earlier this year, the ACCC called on the Government to create a law requiring all goods sold in Australia to be safe, a move Australasian Furnishing Association CEO, Patrizia Torelli supported.

"The Association receives more than 30 calls per month from consumers complaining about 'dodgy' furniture products and people are frequently surprised to learn that it is not illegal to sell unsafe goods in Australia.

"Laws banning the sale of unsafe products would not only save lives, but also create a level playing field for firms who do the right thing and take their safety responsibilities seriously," she said.

She reminded consumers to look for a current AFA Member logo when purchasing furniture.

"Our industry members work hard to ensure the safety of the products and the labels provide consumers with a sense of reassurance that careful consideration has been given to the purpose and use of the furniture.

"We strongly encourage consumers to check out the ACCC's safety tips and watch the safety video 'Anchor it and Protect a Child,' to help avoid the pain and suffering of another Australian family."

The AFA also supplied these tips:

Top tips to buy safe

  • Only buy from reputable and knowledgeable suppliers and retailers
  • Look for the Australasian Furnishing Association Member mark
  • Check that furniture meets both mandatory and non-mandatory AUSTRALIAN Standards
  • Do not buy furniture designed for commercial use and use it in domestic environments and vice-versa
  • Look for furniture that comes with safety information or anchoring systems and advice.

Top tips to use safe

  • Conduct a Health Check of the furniture in your home or workplace
  • Test the furniture - make sure it is stable. For example, pull out top drawers of a chest of drawers and apply a little pressure to see how stable it is; make sure the drawers do not fall out easily.
  • Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.
  • Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.
  • Place televisions at the back of cabinets or secure them to the wall and ensure furniture is fit for purpose and compatible eg: Television cabinets designed for the size of the TV screen and anchored accordingly
  • Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.
  • Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that tempts children to climb up and reach.
  • Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.
  • Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.

What to look for

Look for the AFA Member approved Warning Labels as specified in AS/NZS 4935. If you're not sure, then contact the AFA at www.australianfurniture.org.au