Doctors demand smaller window for child falls

By Julian Bajkowski

The Australian Medical Association has taken the New South Wales government to task over the alarming number of children being seriously injured after falling out of windows and from balconies because of poor building safety design.

In a move certain to have big repercussions for local government planning and development guidelines, the NSW branch of the AMA wants safety devices installed that will limit how far windows above ground level can open.

While the state government has introduced regulations that will require new buildings to be fitted with safer windows, doctors remain worried that this will not be enough to curb the high number of child injuries.

In NSW alone it is estimated that at least 50 children a year are killed or injured falling from windows or balconies.

A big problem is that windows in many flats have little more than a flyscreen barrier to deter curious children from falling out.

The NSW president of the AMA, Associate Professor Brian Owler, believes that the state needs laws and standards similar to those already operating overseas where that have proved successful in reducing the number of falls.

“We need laws similar to the ones that were introduced in New York in the 1970s that saw a 96 per cent reduction in window falls,” Assoc. Prof.  Owler said.

“Otherwise, we will continue to see children injured or dying in these preventable accidents.”

However while the need for prevention is clear, how modifications to existing building would be mandated and enforced is less so.

A logistical concern for councils is how or if they will be resourced to carry out inspections on modified windows to ensure compliance.

While the NSW government has already moved to tighten pool safety laws with a mandatory register and heavy fines for non-compliance, such a mechanism could prove more challenging for windows.

“Today, there has been another child fall from a window in Sydney and we remain on track for the number of kids injured in such accidents to remain unchanged this year,” Assoc. Prof. Owler said on Monday.

“I have been consistently raising the issue of children falling from balconies and windows with the State Government for some time now.”

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