Parents worry endlessly to keep their kids safe. Luckily, families that live in strata schemes have one less thing to stew about after the passing of new legislation in New South Wales. As of December, owners corporations are required to install window locks on all common area windows above the 2nd floor. They’ll have 5 years to comply with the mandate or risk the assessment of fines.
A demographic shift of families moving from detached housing into apartment blocks has contributed in part to a rise in incident rates of small children falling from windows in Australia. Sadly, each year 50 children suffer serious injury or death from these falls. When just one death is one too many, the new regulations are welcome news for families making the switch from the suburbs to High-rise.
Preventing falls is not a passive activity, get involved.
Along with amending the Strata and Residential Tenancies legislation, a massive effort is underway to prevent further accidents. Following a set of guidelines presented by The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Working Party for the Prevention of Children Falling from Residential Buildings, the NSW Department of Health has launched the “Kids Don’t Fly” campaign.
Part of the campaign is to distribute a safety recommendations guide to residents of strata schemes. The pamphlet, which can be downloaded for free, includes tonnes of great advice on how to prevent falls in your home.
Strata owners and renters now have the power to keep their children safe.
As a bonus, the legislation awards strata owners more control over safety equipment preferences for their private windows. Previously, owners corporation by-laws could prevent the installation of certain equipment, but now homeowners have the legal right to install safety devices as they see fit as long as their owners corporation is notified in advance.
Renters weren’t quite granted the same right, but close.
Tenants will still be required to seek written approval from their landlord prior to installing any device that involves drilling into the window sash or wall. But the new law specifies that landlords must work with their tenants and approve these requests, unless they can provide a very good reason for why safety equipment should not be installed.
Landlords will also have the additional responsibility of including window safety devices in prescribed condition reports for rental premises.
What keeps bugs out doesn’t keep kids in!
A common mistake is believing that standard insect screens negate the need to install window locks. Mosquito netting is not strong enough to hold a toddler, and most screens are installed on a simple runner that can be easily jarred out of place.
The only safe alternative to a window lock set at 12.5cm is to install an approved safety mesh that is designed and sold for this exact purpose.
Window and balcony safety starts with Mum and Dad.
Teach kids to play away from windows and always supervise young children (5 and under) as they are the most susceptible to falling accidents.
Keep beds and other furniture away from windows so that children cannot use them to climb up. The same goes for potted plants and outdoor furniture on your balcony. When furniture is especially light and can easily be dragged by a child to the balcony edge, consider installing a lock on the balcony door to restrict access.
Bear in mind that balcony railings in many older buildings are not up to the standards of modern building codes. If your balustrades measure less than 1 metre high, you’ll want to take extra precaution to protect children on your balcony.
Strata schemes may be the new reality in New South Wales, but by implementing safety programs in the home, falling accidents don’t have to be.