The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point

posted in: Health & Safety | 0

“Love you,” I had said to my baby boy. “Love you,” he said back from his bed as I closed the door to his bedroom for his afternoon nap. Later, I went to wake my baby from his nap as my husband came in from yard work. My husband heard a sound that was unrecognizable — my screams.

I had found my baby under his dresser.

– Lisa Siefert

Every few weeks, or so it seems, we see stories in the news about a child being hurt or killed when a piece of furniture tips over onto them. The deaths leading up to the recent recall of millions of IKEA dressers and chests are stark reminders that danger can lurk anywhere in a house, particularly in children’s bedrooms.

In January 2014, when we first posted this story, it was 4-year-old Cyliyah Yarbrough. The young girl, from Aurora, Illinois, died when a television in her home fell on top of her. It’s the kind of story that turns our stomachs, fills us with dread. We think about how painful it must be for the family. Then we chalk it up as a “freak accident,” or a lapse in parenting, and we move on. After all, it’s not the kind of thing that would happen to our kids. Our homes are safe.

Lisa Siefert knew that feeling all too well.

“I was the poster child for the parent who literally bought all the safety items off the display,” says Siefert. “I have cabinet locks, drawer locks, outlet covers, corner bumpers and a whole myriad of other safety devices.”

In 2011, Siefert’s 2-year-old son, Shane, was crushed by his dresser after crawling out of his crib during an afternoon nap. The dresser would later be recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Think it can’t happen to you? Consider this: one child dies every two weeks when a television, piece of furniture or appliance falls on top of them. 

Siefert is now using her own tragedy to help keep others from a similar fate, through Shane’s Foundation, a Chicagoland non-profit organization, dedicated to educating the public about the threat of tip overs and how to prevent them.

How to Prevent Furniture Tips

“The best way to prevent tip-over accidents is to anchor all your furniture, televisions and appliances,” says Seifert. “Use the tip-over hardware that came with the item. If the item did not come with tip-over restraints, you may purchase straps or hardware from large baby retailers (e.g., Babies’R’Us) or select hardware stores. For televisions, mounting on the wall is a great way to keep the television out of reach and secure. All furniture, even short furniture is dangerous and potentially fatal. Baby gates and blocking rooms may not be enough to discourage a curious toddler. Securing all furniture is the safest way to protect your children.”

 It’s a solution that so simple, yet relatively few people heed her warning.

“I speak with parents often,” says Siefert. “And some of the things I have heard are:

  • I don’t want to put holes in my walls.
  • I watch my children.
  • I’ve anchored all my tall furniture.
  • Even if my child climbs on that, it won’t tip because its so heavy.
  • That room is always blocked so I don’t need to secure anything in there.”

These are all misconceptions and poor excuses.

“A hole in a wall is such a small thing compared to a child’s safety,” says Siefert. “Even if you are with your child 24 hours a day and don’t ever sleep, a tip over may happen right in front of you, and you are not faster than a falling television or dresser. Short furniture is equally dangerous and fatal. Anything can tip with the proper leverage. A child has a way to get into any room and even climb over gates.”

Siefert suggests securing your furniture as soon as you learn that you’re pregnant. Or, at the very least, before your child starts crawling. Also, be sure to mount the straps into a stud in the wall, as drywall mounting may not be secure enough.

What’s most curious is how difficult it is to find safety straps for furniture. Along with educating the public, Siefert hopes to change the ways that furniture retailers and manufacturers address tip overs.

“There is no standard for furniture,” says Seifert. “No standard that is MANDATORY. I hope for a MANDATORY standard for furniture, starting with nursery furniture.”

Seifert would like to see:

  1. Manufactures include straps with all their furniture, especially nursery furniture.
  2. Vendors — like Target and Wal-Mart — have anti-tip straps or anti-tip hardware included on their baby safety display.
  3. Have a mandatory standard for furniture to come with an anti-tip device.

“For now, all we can do is educate the public and hope they act and secure all their furniture, TV’s and appliances,” says Siefert.

For tips on how to make your home safer, visit Anchor It! or Shane’s Foundation.


Tips for anchoring furniture and TVs.
Tips for anchoring furniture and TVs.

 Graphic courtesy of Anchor It!

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