Falling Furniture Risk Rises as Weather Cools

Furniture tip-overs injure, sometimes kill thousands of children each year

James R. Hood
James R. Hood

Cooler weather is on the way, which means families will be spending more time indoors. And that means children will be more exposed to furniture tip-overs, a relatively new hazard created by the popularity of gigantic TVs and cheap furniture made of pressed wood and other flimsy materials.

The problem is simple: TVs, home theater speakers and other modern gadgets are heavy, and they're often perched at eye level, atop a study-looking cabinet that is actually little more than a cardboard box.

Children eager to fiddle with the TV or grab a game controller from the cabinet can easily pull the whole mess down on themselves, often with serious and even fatal results.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a report that explains what consumers can do to protect children -- and others for that matter -- from the danger. The solution is anti-tip kits, consisting of a bracket that attaches to the wall and the furniture, preventing it from tipping over.

Check out this video for an illustration.

Not just TVs

It's equally important to secure kitchen stoves with a bracket, so that curious children can't pull the stove over on themselves. Dressers also need to be secured. A child searcing for a pair of socks can easily get in trouble with a top-heavy dresser.

This, by the way, is also an important safety step for homeowners in California and other earthquake-prone regions. A falling bookcase is dangerous to adults and pets as well as children.

If this all sounds far-fetched, consider the statistics: between 2000 and 2019, 451 children age 17 and under were killed by furniture and TV tip-over incidents, according to the CPSC.

During the period from 2017 through 2019, an annual average of 11,100 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms for tip-over-related injuries. Seventy-nine percent of all furniture and TV tip-over fatalities involved children younger than six. Seventy-five percent of fatal incidents for children involved a TV.

“Tip-over injuries and deaths are among the most tragic we see,” said Acting CPSC Chairman Robert Adler. “Parents and caregivers don’t suspect that the bookcase or dresser in their child’s room can be hazardous—it’s a truly hidden hazard. And these tip-overs happen so fast; it’s literally in the blink of an eye, often with a parent close by.”

Safety tips

The CPSC offers these safety tips:

  • Anchor TVs and furniture, such as bookcases and dressers, securely to the wall. 
  • Always place TVs on a sturdy, low base, and push the TV back as far as possible, particularly if anchoring is not possible.
  • Avoid displaying or storing items, such as toys and remotes, in places where kids might be tempted to climb up to reach for them.
  • Store heavier items on lower shelves, or in lower drawers.
  • If purchasing a new TV, consider recycling older ones not currently in use. If moving the older TV to another room, be sure it is anchored to the wall properly.
  • Keep TV and cable cords out of reach of children.
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James R. Hood

Jim is a publishing entrepreneur and journalist. He founded ConsumerAffairs in 1998 and earlier was the founder of Zapnews, after holding executive posts at the Associated Press.