Make it safe!

RoSPA’s blind cord campaign is being expanded in Scotland this month with an awareness-raising initiative rolling out to Borders, Fife and South Lanarkshire.

The expansion of the blind cord campaign, which distributes leaflets and cleats (around which blind cords can be tied), builds on a pilot project undertaken in North Lanarkshire last year. Further funding from the Scottish Government has made the roll out possible, and all three of the new projects will run for six months from April to September.

In North Lanarkshire, it was really encouraging to see that people were talking about the information they received through the project, and were helping to spread the word about the dangers of looped blind cords. We are hopeful that the three new projects, which are delivered by local partners, will have the same impact.

Work to raise awareness of the dangers of blind cords is not just ongoing in Scotland. My RoSPA colleagues in England are also distributing Make it Safe packs to organisations working with children in England, and individual members of the public from across the UK can also request them via the RoSPA website.

My colleagues report that there have been more than 46,000 requests for packs through this part of the campaign sign up now to receive yours.

Typically, we hear about one or two children dying after becoming tangled in blind cords in the UK each year. Tragically, 2010 saw an increase in the number of accidents.

We suspect that there are many near misses that are never reported, but this information would help us to better raise awareness of the issue, as well as telling us more about the circumstances in which such accidents can happen.

One such near-miss accident happened to Beth Clifford – but thankfully her mum got there in time. The experience shook the family up, and encouraged them to spread the word about the dangers of blind cords. You can read the family’s story on RoSPA’s website.

So what can you do to make your home safe?

RoSPA is currently working with the UK government, the blind industry and retailers to ensure that an amended European Standard to make new blinds safer (expected to come into force in the second half of this year) can be implemented with as much success as possible. Alongside this, the blind cord industry is also working with the British Blind and Shutter Association to try to develop blinds that work without looped cords – and some families are calling for a ban on the production of blinds with looped cords.

This is an understandable and admirable goal – but it doesn’t address the existing problem. This is where our awareness-raising campaign in Scotland, and the one on which my England-based colleagues are working, come in. There are 100million blinds in homes throughout the UK, and any ban will not affect them. So we need to make people aware of the dangers, and encourage families to tie the cords up out of harm’s way.

To reduce the risk posed by looped cords, including blind cords, cords should be kept out of the reach of children:

  • Install blinds that do not have a cord, particularly in a child’s bedroom
  • Do not place a child’s cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window
  • Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and kept out of reach
  • Tie up the cords or use one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available
  • Do not hang toys or objects that could be a hazard on the cot or bed
  • Don’t hang drawstring bags where a small child could get their head through the loop of the drawstring.

RoSPA does not recommend that cords are cut, even as a short-term solution. It is advisable that any action taken on the blind cord is a permanent one which will take the cord out of reach of children. It is not an expensive task and a limited number of cleats are available to those who need them via the RoSPA website.

Cutting the cord in the wrong place can make the blind inoperable; and it may also lead to one cord becoming a lot longer which increases the risk of entanglement. Cut cords can also become tangled up resulting in the reformation of a loop.

The problem

Research indicates that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom and occur in children between 16 months and 36 months old, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months. These toddlers are mobile, but their heads still weigh proportionately more than their bodies compared to adults and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them more prone to be unable to free themselves if they become entangled. In addition, their windpipes have not yet fully developed and are smaller and less rigid than adults and older children, making them suffocate more quickly if their necks are constricted.

Visit RoSPA’s campaign pages for more information.

Liz Lumsden

Community Safety Manager for RoSPA Scotland

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