At least 33 young children across the UK have died because of looped cords on blinds since 2001 – that’s one or two children each year – and there will be many more near misses.
We work with a range of partners, including the blinds industry, to raise awareness of cord safety and have also campaigned for new blinds to be safer. While safety standards mean that safer blinds should now be sold, there are still millions of older blinds in homes across the country.
Why are looped cords on blinds dangerous?
Blinds might look harmless enough, but to a young child the looped cords can be deadly if they get them caught around their neck.
Our research has shown that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom and occur in children aged between 16 months and 36 months, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months.
Toddlers are mobile but, compared to adults, their heads still weigh proportionately more than their bodies and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them more prone to being unable to free themselves if they become entangled.
In addition, toddlers' windpipes have not yet fully developed and are smaller and less rigid than those of adults and older children. This means that they suffocate far more quickly if their necks are constricted.
As with drowning, toddlers can be strangled by looped cords quickly and quietly with carers in close proximity, potentially unaware of what's happening.
How to make blind cords safe
To prevent blind cord accidents, the safest thing you can do is to fit a blind that is safe by design, which means that it does not have looped cords, and this is especially important in a child’s bedroom. A safety standard introduced in 2014 means that new blinds must be safe by design or be supplied with appropriate child safety devices installed. You can read more about this below.
If you already have blinds with looped cords in a child’s bedroom, we recommend that you remove them. If you have blinds with looped cords elsewhere in your home, we recommend that you remove them or, if you cannot do this, you tie up the cords with a safety device.
Here are our top tips for preventing accidents involving looped cords:
- Install blinds that do not have a looped cord, particularly in a child's bedroom
- Cords on blinds (and also curtains) that are elsewhere in the home should be kept short and out of reach of children – tie up the cords or use one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available
- Do not place a child's cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window
- Do not hang toys or objects that could be a hazard on a cot or bed
- Do not hang drawstring bags where a small child could get their head through the loop of the drawstring.
We do not recommend that cords are cut, even as a short-term solution, because they could actually become more dangerous – one cord could become a lot longer than the other, increasing the risk of entanglement, and cut cords could also become tangled, resulting in the formation of a new loop.
What do the safety standards say?
Since 2004, RoSPA has been working with partners including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), CEN (the European Committee for Standardisation) and the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA) to raise awareness of blind cord safety through the Make it Safe campaign, and we have encouraged the blind industry to take voluntary action to make products safer.
We welcomed a major development in our campaign when an amended safety standard (EN13120:2009+A1:2014) was introduced in 2014, which required new blinds to be safe by design or be supplied with the appropriate child safety devices. This means that where there is a loop that is present, or could be created, a safety device must be installed at the point of manufacture. These safety devices either break under pressure, tension the cord or chain, or provide the facility to store the cord(s) out of reach. Professional installers must fit these devices. If you are fitting blinds yourself, you should follow the instructions supplied with the product and make sure you fit any safety device.
The amendment also extended the standard’s scope so it covers not only venetian blinds, roller blinds, vertical blinds and pleated blinds, but also honeycomb blinds, Roman shades, Austrian/Festoon blinds, panel blinds, plantation shutters and roll-up blinds.
The standard also imposes a maximum cord and chain length, and all blinds must carry safety warnings.
Manufacturers and retailers that do not comply with the standard could be prosecuted under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.
*Reproduced with kind permission of the British Blind and Shutter Association © 2015