We all want our homes to look fantastic and price cuts to fireplaces and large televisions in recent years are very tempting. Most people love a bargain, but when buying wall-mounted televisions or fireplace surrounds, the focus is often on the price of the product and not the wider costs of having them safely installed in the home.
For a television this can mean paying up to £100 for an appropriate bracket and an additional £50-£100 to have that bracket properly fixed to the wall by a professional. For fireplace surrounds, safe fitting by a professional can add more than £100 to the overall cost of the product.
The tragic case of four-year-old Matthew Green, who was killed when a fireplace surround fell on him, has prompted the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to raise awareness in this area of safety, which unfortunately often gets overlooked.
The HSE issued a specific warning about modular, stone or artificial stone fireplace surrounds and the importance of their safe installation. The key issue is about the fireplace surround falling, particularly onto children. Toddlers can also try to climb up these surrounds, which can bring them crashing down onto the child.
Individual components of these fireplaces can weigh more than 50kgs and the mantelpiece may also have a significant overhang, projecting forward from the lintel. Unless fitted in a secure manner, this makes the mantel, in particular, liable to topple off the lintel.
RoSPA has been aware of problems with fireplace surrounds for the past few years and we are concerned that this seems to be developing into a significant issue. Our advice is to do three things when buying one of these products:
- Seek professional advice BEFORE buying the product. Get assurance that the product you intend to buy is suitable and safe for your home
- Get quotes for the fireplace surround AND fitting in advance. Ensure that the combined cost is within your price range
- Get the fireplace surround fitted by a professional.
In recent years, RoSPA has also issued warnings about the dangers of big, unstable flat screen televisions falling or being pulled onto toddlers, causing deaths and serious injuries. We are pleased to note that this issue appears to have been accepted by a number of retailers who are now promoting their professional installation service, encouraging homeowners to spend a few extra pounds on getting their expensive new television professionally installed.
Additionally, there are now safety straps that can be bought for less than £10 to secure screens that are on top of cupboards and other areas, to stop them from toppling over.
In summary, both fireplace surrounds and televisions are normally perfectly safe at the point of purchase. It is when they are fitted that they then become unsafe, especially if proper installation is not given the priority it deserves.
Yes, this can cost more, and yes, this may mean a wait until a professional can fit the product. But these are small prices to pay when you consider the injuries and deaths that unsafe installations have caused over the years.
For more information about safety advice, please visit www.rospa.com.
Philip LeShirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.