Posts tagged ‘Philip Le Shirley’

27 November, 2013

Bunk beds – are your children sleeping safely?

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.

ClimbingIt is estimated that there are seven bed-related fatalities a year in the UK, along with 1,000 children injured after falling from beds.

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.

We want families to keep bedtime safe and happy.

We want families to keep bedtime safe and happy.

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.

Children under six should not be allowed on the top bunk, although they may seem safe and be responsible. It can only take one awkward fall to sustain an injury.iStock_000012073096Large

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.

red_houseI know only too well from my own children that youngsters love to play on bunk beds, but climbing and bouncing around on the top bunk should not be permitted.

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.

8 October, 2012

Child safety in the kitchen – are you prepared?

With the summer now over and the dark nights drawing in, children are choosing to play indoors more frequently. And while children are a joy to be around, RoSPA hopes that parents are beginning to think about reducing the risks to their children in the home, particularly in the kitchen, where some of the most serious accidents occur.

The kitchen poses many hazards to our little ones and there are many things that parents can do to protect their children from injury. It is important, however, to stress that it is impossible to “childproof” the home – this is a dangerously misleading term implying that 100 per cent safety is achievable.

liquitab style dishwasher and washing machine detergents children injury

Small children can mistake liquitab style dishwasher and washing machine detergents for sweets and ingest them. We encourage families to keep chemical items such as laundry detergents and other products in a lockable cupboard.

Are liquitab detergents safe?

We have noticed a worrying new trend in injuries to children ingesting liquitab style dishwasher and washing machine detergents. If used correctly, these products are completely safe and very effective. Unfortunately, they are also very appealing to small children who can mistake them for sweets and ingest them.

We were recently alerted to cases in which children were admitted to hospital in Glasgow as a result of the ingestion of liquid detergent from capsules. In addition to children swallowing detergent, doctors have also previously raised awareness of the risk of injury to young children who get liquid detergent in their eyes. The safe storage of all household chemicals is absolutely crucial and we encourage families to keep chemical items such as laundry detergents and other products in a lockable cupboard.

How reliable are child-resistant caps on products?

Parents should never transfer dangerous products from one container to another. Although the law requires child-resistant closures on medicine bottles and other hazardous substances for domestic use, these are absolutely not childproof.  The aim of such caps is to provide a little time in which parents may spot that a child is accessing a potential poison and intervene to prevent the substance being ingested. Unfortunately, the weakness of the cap is that some children are actually quite adept at opening them, often when asked by an older person struggling to find the necessary finger power and dexterity to open it themselves!

Be alert to the risk of scalds and burns!

child safety RoSPA kitchen liquitab scalds burns

Children should not be left unsupervised in the kitchen at any time, but the use of oven guards can assist in ensuring that the environment is safer for them when parents are cooking.

Burns to children’s hands from oven doors is also a very important issue in the kitchen.  Whilst there are very strict controls in place limiting the surface temperatures of oven doors, they can still get very hot. Children’s skin is thinner than adult skin and as such they are more susceptible to injury here, especially as they are naturally inclined to explore their surroundings by touching what they see.

What many parents may not be aware of is that there are some very effective products on the marketplace that can be placed over oven doors to guard against these serious hazards.  Children should not be left unsupervised in the kitchen at any time, but the use of oven guards can assist in ensuring that the environment is safer for them when parents are cooking.

Parents should arrange storage areas carefully so that heavy items are not kept on high shelves. Extra care should be taken with hot water, tea, coffee or soup to avoid the risk of young children at their feet getting scalded. Knives and scissors should be kept in good condition and out of reach of children, as should matches and lighters, and pan handles should be turned inward so that children cannot reach them and pull them over (cordless kettles or those with a coiled lead are recommended so that children cannot pull on them).

How safe is the glass in your home?

Finally, think about the glass in your interior doors and patio doors. Building regulations define “critical areas” where safety glazing is mandatory. Areas such as doors and low-level glazing where a child might accidentally fall against the glass always require safety glazing.

RoSPA is aware of many children being seriously injured by sliding on smooth kitchen floors into glass doors. In one incident, a child slid head-first through a patio door and narrowly avoided being decapitated as the glass broke into a large “guillotine” shaped shard.  Ordinary glass is dangerous – particularly at low level – because it breaks into these large, jagged pieces which can cause serious injury.

If you do not have safety glass fitted in these areas then protective film can be used to protect smaller panes. Larger panes should be constructed from laminated or toughened glass which is stronger and if it does break, it will do so into smaller, less jagged pieces.  RoSPA advises not letting children play near glass at all and to ensure that glazed areas of homes are well lit.

For further advice, visit www.rospa.com/homesafety.

Philip LeShirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser

24 May, 2012

Baby slings – advice and information for parents

Babies are the most wonderful gift but they can be heavy! In situations where buggies and pushchairs are not suitable, parents are often faced with the prospect of having to carry their baby, which can lead to back pain and fatigue. Parents ideally want their babies as close to them as possible and often choose the aid of a baby sling to support their little one in a comforting way, meaning parents then have their hands free to go about their daily tasks.

baby carrier baby sling

The safest method of baby wearing is in a carrier that keeps the newborn baby solidly against the parent’s body, in an upright position. Parents should ensure that they keep their baby’s chin off their chest, thereby keeping the airway free for breathing.

While RoSPA fully under stands the attraction of using baby slings, we are very concerned about a worrying number of fatalities recorded by parents using certain types of baby slings to carry their children.

These slings are made of soft fabrics that wrap around the chest so that on-the-go parents can carry their babies or use it as another way to bond, keeping close contact between the child and the parent. They have become increasingly popular in recent years and slings have also been promoted by baby experts as a way to help babies feel secure and calm or as an alternative aid for mothers to use for breastfeeding.

It is important to mention that not all slings are dangerous and they have been in use for thousands of years. The safest method of baby wearing is in a carrier that keeps the newborn baby solidly against the parent’s body, in an upright position. Parents should ensure that they keep their baby’s chin off their chest, thereby keeping the airway free for breathing.

RoSPA is not calling for a ban on these products, nor urging parents not to use them.  Instead we are advising parents to be careful with their selection of the type of sling and to be aware that there are risks attached. RoSPA advocates products that keep babies upright and allow parents to see their baby and to ensure that the face isn’t restricted.

The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers provided the following advice to baby sling wearers: Keep your baby close and keep your baby safe. When you’re wearing a sling or carrier, don’t forget the T.I.C.K.S:

  • Tight
  • In view at all times
  • Close enough to kiss
  • Keep chin off the chest
  • Supported back.

But what many parents may not be aware of is that at least 16 deaths across the world have been reported as a result of using baby slings. The US authorities have advised parents to be cautious when using infant slings for babies younger than four months. Slings can pose a suffocation hazard in two different ways:

  • A sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and causing suffocation within a minute or two
  • The other scenario involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position, nestling the baby below the parent’s chest or near their stomach. This can cause a baby who doesn’t have strong neck control to flop its head forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. In scenarios like this, babies may not be able to cry for help and could slowly suffocate, according to the US authorities.

Did you know that in 2010, over a million baby slings were recalled in the US by a manufacturer over fears that they could cause suffocation? It followed three deaths linked to The SlingRider and Wendy Bellissimo ranges, made by Infantino. As a result, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urged parents to stop using the slings for babies under four months. The CPSC also stipulated that all products should be sold with clear safety instructions.

In the US, the case of one-week-old Derrik Fowler, in Oregon, is used by many safety advocates as an example of the suffocation risks associated with slings. Derek died in a sling of positional asphyxia or suffocation, according to court records. Derrik was carried in a “bag style” sling, in which the fabric wraps around the parent’s neck and cradles the child in a curved position.

RoSPA hopes that this advice is useful to new parents. If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, they should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

18 April, 2012

“Baby Bling” – a dangerous new fashion trend

Having a baby can be a wonderful experience and every parent wants their child to look as beautiful and special as possible. Although most baby clothing and accessories are perfectly safe, RoSPA has noticed a worrying new trend emerging among parents who are opting to use “bling dummies” to soothe their children and are accessorising further with “bling clips” or “bling bottles”.

bling dummies baby bling

Adding “bling” to dummies can create a choking hazard.

These eye-catching items are of the usual design but with one important difference – they have been decorated with stuck on beads, gems and other items in order to add a touch of “sparkle” to their baby’s look.  Adding “bling” to dummies serves no useful purpose, it is purely a cosmetic addition. But there are some very serious hazards associated with these products which many parents may not be aware of.

Bling dummies, clips and bottles are of great concern to Trading Standards officers.  A huge amount of enforcement action has been taken against suppliers of these products, primarily to address choking hazards posed when the “bling” becomes detached. As these are relatively new products there is considerable scope for research, advice and awareness-raising in this area for RoSPA.

The key issue here is that the decorations that are attached to the dummies, clips and bottles are often easily detachable and once detached can pose a choking hazard to a baby. The decoration can become stuck in the throat of the child or can be ingested and cause internal problems. Parents should not take the view that these products are safe because they regularly monitor their children – this is simply not possible every second of every day.

Many of these products are manufactured by legitimate companies and start life in accordance with the highest safety standards. But it is what happens next which is the concern. The items are then being bought by other companies who glue on the gems, beads and other decorations. There are strict controls on adding beads, gems or stickers to soothers, bottles and other baby products and as such these customised products are potentially unsafe.

An additional concern is that some of these dummies and bottles are being imported from the Far East and as such may not have been subjected to the same testing for chemicals and durability as UK dummies and bottles. These products have been made available on websites and in independent shops and market stalls.

bling dummies baby bling

“Bling” dummies, clips or bottles are widely available for sale on the internet, but this does not mean they are safe for your baby.

It is very important to remember who these products are designed to please. They are sold for the gratification of the parent, not the child. RoSPA is adamant that parents should always put their children’s safety before any desires to accessorise or “bling” them up.

There have been cases of these products being taken off the UK market because they pose a choking hazard. In RoSPA’s view, the biggest problem is that these products are widely available on the internet, but the fact that these products are being offered for sale and delivery to your home does not mean that they are safe for your baby.

If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

20 March, 2012

Amber teething necklaces – is your child at risk?

It is a common conundrum for parents all around the world – what is the best method to help soothe my baby? While there are many ways and means out there which are both safe and effective, from gentle rocking to a tuneful lullaby, RoSPA has noticed a worrying new trend emerging among parents who are opting to use amber bead teething necklaces.

Amber teething necklace

An example of an amber teething necklace.

These eye-catching beads are made from natural Baltic amber and are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething. While there is evidence to show that these beads can have an analgesic effect, there are some very serious hazards associated with the product which we wish to make parents aware of.

Baltic amber contains between three and eight per cent succinic acid. Those that subscribe to this method of soothing argue that the acid, which has been shown to stimulate neural system recovery and bolster the immune system, is released from the beads and into the baby. The succinc acid is said to have an analgesic effect, reducing the pain of teething.

While RoSPA is not in a position to comment on the accuracy of these claims, in the past concerns have been raised about amber teething necklaces representing a choking hazard. The main concern relates to the beads and clasps which can become detached. There are also inherent strangulation hazards associated with having any type of cord placed around a child’s neck, especially babies. Some proponents have argued that the risk of strangulation is mitigated by only allowing the baby to wear the necklace when he/she is awake and under supervision. RoSPA does not support his view. Aside from the fact that babies spend a substantive part of their time sleeping, RoSPA does not advocate any cord being placed around any baby’s neck at any time. Our ongoing work on the risks posed by blind cords highlights the terrible tragedies of infant strangulation and the speed at which it can happen.

amber teething necklace baby

Amber teething necklaces are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething – but it could pose a choking hazard.

RoSPA is fully aware of the stress parents can be under when their babies start teething, but there are many other options out there to help soothe teething pain, such as the use of medically approved creams applied directly to the gums. Other methods include teethers and teething toys which are often filled with a liquid and are sometimes kept refrigerated before being given to a baby to chew on. In all cases, RoSPA advises parents to seek advice from health workers (even before the baby is born) on the best and safest ways of soothing teething pain.

There have been cases of amber teething necklaces being taken off the UK and European market some years ago due to choking hazards. In RoSPA’s view, the biggest problem is that these necklaces are widely available on the internet, but the fact that these products are being offered for sale and delivery to your home does not mean that they are safe for your baby.

If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

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