Domestic tragedy - We all must act to keep children safe

The death of a two-year-old child in a domestic accident must be every parent’s worst nightmare.

Last February, Gillian Malley found her two-year-old son Arran hanging from the steel-beaded cord attached to the upstairs blinds at their home on the outskirts of Carrigtohill, Co Cork. Despite frantic efforts to resuscitate him, Arran died.

Shane Malley had shortened the chords on the Venetian blinds down stairs, but found the steel beaded cord upstairs impossible to shorten. When he went about the grim task of replacing the blinds involved in the tragic death of his son, he made the discovery that what happened was not a once-off accident.

Other Irish children had died of strangulation as a result of similar accidents. A child dies on average every two weeks as a result of unsecured blinds in the US. Everyone needs to be forewarned of the dangers.

To prevent such accidents, a small plastic safety clip has been devised. It costs only 37 cent and is frequently fitted at no extra charge with the blinds, but Shane never heard of the fitting, and Gillian made the mistake of assuming the manufactures had made the blinds safe.

The Malleys are shocked by the gross lack of awareness in the industry of the dangers that corded blinds pose for children. These dangers exist with various blinds — cellular blinds, corded roll-up blinds, Roman blinds, vertical blinds and Venetian blinds.

There should be an onus on manufacturers and sellers to ensure that purchasers are properly warned of the dangers and the need for all owners to be vigilant. Cords should be shortened and raised, while beds and chairs should be kept away from blinds.

There is no legal obligation on Irish fitters to make blinds childproof. Many may not even know of the safety devices. There were no safety tags with the blinds purchased by the Malleys and nobody from the company that installed them discussed the safety implications with them.

An engineer has to give a house an energy rating before it can be sold. “Why can’t there also be a law whereby a house cannot be put on the market without child-safe blinds?” Gillian Malley asked.

If a toy causes a child’s death, it would be withdrawn immediately, Shane Malley wrote to the National Standards Authority of Ireland. EU safety standards have just been released with specific guidelines on cord safety.

The standards authority has teamed up with the National Consumer Agency to promote a nationwide campaign to inform people of the dangers. Both agencies have posted guidelines about blinds on their websites, and over 400 manufacturers, suppliers and fitters are being notified about the new standards.

Unfortunately this is too late for the Malley family, but hopefully it will alert other people to the dangers.

We salute Shane and Gillian Malley for highlighting the problem. Re-living the nightmare was very brave and it may help to save other parents from a similar horror.


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