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The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is urging people to take care with flat-screen televisions in the run up to the football World Cup.

Sales of such televisions have increased in recent years, and with the England team taking part in the rapidly-approaching tournament, sales are expected to rise swiftly in the next month. RoSPA is raising awareness of the instability of flat-screen television sets, highlighting the fact that they could be easily pulled over by children.

Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s deputy chief executive, said: “Toddlers are particularly at risk of pulling flat-screen televisions on to themselves. They are unsteady on their feet and are attracted by colourful television images. We know that children have been killed and seriously injured when televisions have fallen on them, and our fear is that such incidents will increase with the growing popularity of flat-screen televisions.”

In the UK since July 2008, RoSPA is aware of four reported fatalities in which children, aged from 13 months to four-years-old, have died as a result of televisions falling on them.*

Leading suppliers of child safety products can provide information on anti-tip furniture straps that can be fitted to televisions. RoSPA urges all stockists of safety equipment to make anti-tip straps easily available, so parents can ensure their furniture is stable.

To prevent children being injured in television-related accidents, RoSPA advises that:

  • Free-standing, flat-screen televisions are placed on a wide, stable manufacturer’s base (designed to accompany the television), which reduces the risk of the screen toppling forwards
  • Anti-tip straps are fitted. These are now available from leading suppliers of child safety products in the UK, and are an easy, inexpensive and effective way of ensuring that your flat-screen television stays safely upright. Straps are designed to be attached to the rear of flat-screen televisions (and other types of furniture) and then tethered securely to brackets fixed to the wall
  • As much as possible, children are kept out of the way while bulky, heavy objects such as televisions are being moved
  • Toddlers are discouraged from pulling themselves up by holding on to a television set or furniture on which a television sits.

If you are hanging your flat-screen television on a wall, take care to ensure it is fitted to a solid wall. Where internal walls are made of plasterboard, fixing brackets should be attached to underlying wooden studs. If in any doubt about this, use the services of a skilled tradesperson. Always check and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for additional information about hanging your television on the wall.

The lack of up-to-date UK-wide injury data means that there are no current statistics on accidents involving flat-screen televisions. However, US figures show that from 1990-2007, an average of nearly 15,000 under-18s visited emergency departments annually for injuries received from furniture “tip-overs”. Three quarters of these injuries occurred among under-sevens, and nearly half resulted from televisions tipping over.

*One case was reported to have involved a flat-screen television; it is not clear whether the others involved flat-screens or bulkier sets.

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Note to broadcasters: RoSPA has its own ISDN studio.

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