Safety checks needed for balconies, windows

Accidents continue to occur in which young children fall from balconies and windows of condominium buildings and houses. As children often do unexpected things, it is hoped that safety checks for dangerous places will not be neglected.

In the area for which the Tokyo Fire Department has jurisdiction, 62 children age 5 or younger were taken to hospital by ambulance after falling from the second floor or higher during the 2017-21 period. Of these children, 13 were in critical condition at the time of emergency transportation. Similar accidents have also occurred in Osaka almost every year.

Many accidental falls involving children take place in May when the weather gets warmer. Caution is needed when a window is open to let fresh air in from the outside. In one case, a 2-year-old child leaned against a window screen and fell together with the screen.

When small children become able to walk around, they tend to behave out of curiosity in ways adults do not expect. Just because they are inside homes does not mean they are safe.

The Building Standard Law states that rails around balconies on the second floor or above should be installed at a height of at least 1.1 meters. However, the average height of a 4-year-old child is about 1 meter. These children could climb such rails, according to the results of an experiment.

In March, a 2-year-old boy died apparently after climbing over a balcony rail on the fourth floor of a condominium building in Shiga Prefecture and falling to the ground. At the time, the windows leading onto the balcony were locked, but the boy had reportedly become able to unlock them.

His mother was in another room. She was quoted by police as saying that she had dozed off and stopped watching the boy.

Past accidents have involved children putting their feet on strollers or suitcases placed on the balcony and then climbing over the railing. Compressor units of air conditioners, flower pots and other items could be used as stepstools.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, people have spent more time at home. Many parents let their children play on balconies. So-called veramping, in which people place tables and chairs on the balcony and relax, has also been popular.

Some families may find it difficult to constantly pay attention to children for such reasons as parents working from home or having several small children. It is important to check if there are possible accident risks and eliminate them on a regular basis.

It is desirable that items are not placed where children could use them to climb over the rails. Placing air conditioning compressor units away from the railing is also effective to prevent accidental falls. People should also confirm whether children can pass through the gaps between balustrades, too.

The number of high-rise condominium buildings has been increasing in the nation, especially in urban areas. Once an accident occurs, it is too late.

This year, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry launched a program to subsidize the cost of installing rails that children cannot climb easily and taking other safety measures. It is hoped that accidental falls involving children will be prevented using this system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 8, 2022)