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Bunk bed injuries in Australia: the case for a mandatory safety standard

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Bunk beds have long been recognised as a potential source of injury to children. This study was undertaken to establish an evidence base for a proposed injury reduction program and to determine whether or not there is a case for a mandatory safety standard. Recent literature on bunk bed safety was reviewed to provide an overview of the injury issues involved. Major sources of relevant Australian and international data were identified and the available data summarised. An in-depth analysis of Victorian data was undertaken to identify the nature and severity of injuries sustained and any patterns or trends, including age profiles. It is estimated that, in Australia, in the under fifteen age-group, there are at least 2,100 bunk bed-related injuries treated annually by hospital emergency departments. This represents a rate of about 50 injuries per 100,000 age-specific population. The majority of these injuries (86%) occur in children under the age of 10 years with injuries peaking in the 5-9 year age-group. The main cause of non-fatal injury is falls from the top bunk resulting in a fracture (33%), mainly to the upper extremity (75%). There have been at least two deaths from asphyxia in Australia in the past 10 years, due to entrapment in the bunk structure. It is clear from the current evidence that bunk bed injuries are a significant problem in Australia and represent a life-threatening hazard to young children in particular. The existing voluntary Australian/New Zealand Standard adequately addresses the safety issues raised by the examination of the literature and the analysis of the injury data. It is also clear that, in Australia, voluntary standards and the market place have been ineffective in achieving compliance. It is therefore recommended that the Australian Standard be made mandatory in an effort to significantly improve the safety of bunk beds in Australia.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-06-01

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