New arrivals in the family are a joy, but they soon need their own bed. Often this will mean smaller rooms being turned into bedrooms or siblings sharing a room. In this edition of my blog, I will look at how parents can safely use bunk beds for their children to sleep in.
Unsurprisingly, most accidents involving bunk beds occur when children are playing on them and so they should be discouraged from doing so.
At the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we recommend that no child under the age of six sleeps in the top bunk.
In one study of accidents involving bunk beds, the age group found to be most at risk was between two and six years (which represented 57 per cent of the accidents studied).
Of the accidents, 40 per cent resulted from “children playing”, but entrapment leading to strangulation has also been recognised as a particular hazard and is dealt with by the safety laws.
In fact, the harmonised European standard for bunk beds requires that the manufacturer’s instructions provided with new bunk beds contains the phrase “be aware of the danger of young children (under six) falling from the upper bunk”.
Sadly, it is not just the top bunk that can be dangerous. Earlier this year an eight-month-old girl accidentally hanged herself when she became wedged between a mattress and ladder while wriggling in her bunk bed.
She had been sleeping in the bottom bunk for two months after a health visitor said she should be given her own room.
Her parents fitted a bed brace to ensure the baby didn’t fall out, but somehow she managed to wriggle between the bars of the ladder leading to the top bunk and got stuck against the mattress.
Our advice here at RoSPA is very clear – bunk beds are perfectly safe for kids as long as safety checks are in place.
Parents should consider very carefully whether allowing a child younger than six to sleep on the bottom bunk is safe for them. Babies should always have their own cots, and toddlers can get trapped, as we have seen, so please don’t think that just because your child is under six, they will automatically be safe on the bottom bunk.
Another thing to consider is a thinner mattress for the top bunk as a standard single mattress may be too thick and will allow the child to roll over the safety barrier.
Importantly, do not allow any type of cord, rope, belt, scarf or anything similar to be hung from the top bunk. Also, do not place bunk beds near windows which have cord operated blinds – it is safer not to have this type of window covering in a child’s bedroom. This is because children can be strangled quickly and quietly by looped blind cords, sometimes with parents or carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what is happening.
Every part to a bunk bed is important, so when assembling bunk beds, ensure that all safety barriers are in place, especially if buying a second-hand one.
Finally, when booking your holidays, please check what the sleeping arrangements for your children will be. RoSPA has received reports in the past of holiday firms booking rooms for children under six with bunk beds. My advice is to be very explicit at the point of booking whether or not bunk beds will be suitable for your children.
I hope this blog has been of use to you, so sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!
Philip le Shirley, product safety consultant at RoSPA.