ACCC issues stark warning on toppling furniture

Furniture suppliers will need to provide adequate safety warnings about the dangers of toppling furniture, after new mandatory safety standards were introduced. How secure is the furniture at your place?

Manufacturers and suppliers will now be required to provide safety warnings with their products giving advice on how to properly secure furniture and reduce toppling incidents.

Chests of drawers, wardrobes, bookshelves, TV units and any other tall items, when not properly secured, can topple over when young children attempt to climb on, or pull themselves up on, those items of furniture.

Twenty-eight people, including 17 children under five, have been killed in Australia since 2000 due to large furniture items falling on top of them. More than 900 have been injured enough to require medical attention.

Stats show children under four are most at risk, followed by those aged 75 and over. With many older Australians taking on a larger share of childcare duties for their grandchildren, the risk of injury from toppling furniture is increasing.

The new standards were formally implemented on 3 May after extensive consultation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh says the new standards will hopefully raise awareness of the dangers of heavy unsecured furniture.

“A mandatory information standard is a critical step towards reducing the injuries and deaths involving toppling furniture,” he says. 

“We know that young children and the elderly are most at risk of toppling furniture injuries, and the most common cause of death is head and crush injuries and asphyxiation.

“The new information standard will help increase awareness about toppling furniture risks, including by warning consumers to securely anchor furniture to prevent furniture tip overs.”

What are furniture suppliers now required to do?

The new information standard will require suppliers to attach a permanent warning label to furniture that includes safety information and advice about anchoring furniture.

There will also be a requirement to provide warnings about the hazards of toppling furniture in furniture stores and online.

The standard will apply to chests of drawers, wardrobes, bookcases, hall tables, display cabinets, buffets and sideboards with a height of 686mm or more.

Entertainment units of any height, such as those that house televisions and gaming consoles, will also need to have warning information supplied.

The ACCC is giving suppliers will a 12-month transition period to implement the new requirements.

What are the penalties for non-compliant furniture?

After the 12-month grace period, if a furniture supplier is found to be selling non-compliant furniture they will be penalised under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

In this case, the maximum financial penalty for individuals is $2.5 million, while businesses will be fined whichever is largest out of:

  • $50,000,000
  • three times the value of the ‘reasonably attributable’ benefit obtained from the conduct, if the court can determine this; or
  • Thirty per cent of adjusted turnover during the breach period.

What to look for when buying furniture

The ACCC says there a number of factors you can look for when buying furniture that indicate the item will be safer than others.

First, examine the furniture to make sure it is stable, pulling out any top drawers of a chest of drawers or open doors on other furniture items and apply pressure to see how stable the item is.

Make sure drawers don’t come out easily and look for built-in drawer stops that limit how far they can be extended or interlocks that prevent more than one drawer being opened at a time.

Look for furniture with sturdy backing material which will increase stability. Low-set furniture, or furniture with a sturdy, stable and broad base is less likely to tip over.

Have you had any accidents involving furniture tipping over? Do you have any furniture that could be considered dangerous? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: The surface cleaners that really work

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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