Summer is at last upon us. Time to open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. But let's not forget the children.
At Schauermann Thayer law firm we handle negligence cases, often ones of severe injury and death. Several of the more tragic and difficult cases that we have had in our more than three decades of law practice involved a baby or small child falling from an upper-story window.
This was a topic about which one of my partners wrote a blog post in 2013 ("Kids and Windows - Watch Out," October 1, 2013.) There was also an excellent Columbian article recently published (dated May 29, 2017, by Marissa Harshman,) however, which effectively addresses this important topic. If you have any "little folk" in your family, or friends with kids that visit you, we encourage you to read Ms. Harshman's thoughtful and helpful article.
Here are some window-safety takeaways from it:
- Designate rooms with windows - especially on upper floors - a kid-free zone if possible
- Avoid putting furniture close-by that would allow little ones to climb up and have access to windows
- Keep windows closed and locked when not in use
- Don't open windows beyond four inches
- Install safety devices such as kid-proof window safety locks, or specially designed window safety meshes. (According to the Columbian article, companies that make safety locks and child-safe mesh window guards include KidCo, and Guardian Angel.)
- And of course, supervise young children
But unfortunately, as our firm's past cases involving babies falling out of windows have demonstrated, 100% supervision is not always possible, or at least, is not always achieved. Parents and babysitters can get distracted. Children are inherently curious, and not yet well-versed enough in assessing risks to themselves to be able to appreciate the danger and resist the temptation of leaning against a flimsy window screen to peer outside. As the Columbian article notes, quoting public health nurse Anne Johnson:
"Kids are top-heavy," Johnson said. "When a curious child pushes against the window screen, or leans out open windows, it doesn't take much for the weight of their head to propel their body through the window."
"It's one of those hidden safety hazards a lot of people don't think about," Johnson said.
And the result when a child falls from an upper story window is all too often tragic - brain injury, broken limbs, or worst of all, a baby's needless death.
So parents and grandparents, if you have not already done so, please evaluate your own homes with this easy-to-overlook risk in mind. And when you and your precious young wards are visiting friends, family, or staying at a hotel on an out-of-town trip or vacation, don't forget to assess and address the window safety situation before allowing your focus to switch to other business or social activities. The health and happiness of our children is paramount.
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." ~ Frederick Douglass