Let’s be clear: if you buy a set of bookshelves or a substantial piece of furniture, consider installing wall anchors to the furniture. Wall anchors can help prevent heavy furniture from falling over onto young kids, which can be deadly.
The problem is that anchoring doesn’t solve the root problem of instability in furniture. Not everyone realizes the need to anchor their furniture to the wall. Even if they know, they may not have the expertise to do so correctly. Wall anchor kits rarely are included with furniture or even furniture kits. Renters may not be allowed to install wall anchors in their homes or apartments. And even when consumers install anchors, they don’t always hold.
According to a 2018 Consumer Reports survey, 41% of people who didn’t use wall anchors said that, for one reason, they thought the furniture seemed stable enough.
Your furniture may seem stable, but it might still tip over if a child climbs it. Kids are notorious for climbing bookshelves. They sometimes partially pull out drawers from dressers and nightstands and use them as steps.
Unfortunately, two more kids were recently killed by falling furniture. According to Consumer Reports, a 23-month-old child from Atlanta was killed in February when a dresser tipped over on him. Then, in March, a 3-year-old girl in Maryland died when a dresser tipped over and crushed her.
Also in March, Janet McGee’s 3 year-old son was playing near an Ashley Furniture Trinell nightstand that was anchored to the wall by a metal anchor kit she bought because it seemed more substantial than the zip-tie anchor provided with the nightstand. When her 3-year-old pulled out a drawer, the nightstand pulled the anchors out of the wall and narrowly missed falling on the child.
Janet McGee is a founder of the group Parents Against Tip-Overs, a group that fights for increased stability requirements for furniture. She helped found the group because her own 2-year-old son Ted was killed in a tip-over in 2016.
Tip-overs continue to happen despite training, wall anchors
McGee understands the crucial importance of teaching kids not to climb furniture. She has also anchored every substantial piece of her furniture to walls.
That doesn’t appear to be enough. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 19,900 people go to emergency rooms each year after being injured in furniture tip-overs. Between 2000 and 2019, 351 people – mostly small children – died from tip-overs.
No surprise here: the industry proposes consumers be responsible for decreasing the risk by making them solely responsible for anchoring furniture to walls. Yet that solution may not be good enough.
New safety legislation may be needed
Parents Against Tip-Overs, Consumer Reports and other safety advocacy groups support a bipartisan bill called the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act. It would require the CPSC to write rules requiring furniture manufacturers to make their products more stable.
Currently, there is only a voluntary industry standard. When tip-overs injure or kill children, the only real remedy is for the family to sue the furniture manufacturer, supplier, or retailer. The STURDY Act would essentially make the voluntary standard mandatory.
“There’s no way to tell if a dresser is more or less stable just by looking at it,” points out Consumer Reports. “It’s critical to require strong safety testing before furniture is sold, and that should include tests accounting for real-world scenarios, such as when multiple drawers are open or when a child is pulling or climbing on a dresser.”
“Anchoring is a Band-Aid to the real problem,” adds McGee. “All these people told me after Ted died that I should’ve anchored my furniture, and guess what? I listened and learned my lesson, and this second tip-over still happened.”