Belfast Telegraph

Be aware of window blinds peril

Dr Michael McBride

Eighteen seconds is all it takes for a toddler to lose their life from becoming entangled in a window blind cord, or chain.

In the UK, since 1999 more than 30 children have died from strangulation by a blind cord, or chain.

Toddlers between 16-36 months are most vulnerable: they are mobile, but they lack muscle control and their windpipes have not fully developed.

One death is tragic; failing to act to prevent others is unforgivable. We all have our part to play. This week, Health Minister Jim Wells launched the Home Accident Prevention Strategy.

To prevent blind cord accidents, I have worked with the UK chief medical officers, the Public Health Agency and others to raise awareness of the dangers:

• Blind cord safety will be included in antenatal classes and the What you Need for Your Baby leaflet

• The Birth to Five book has been redrafted to highlight blind cord safety advice

• Health visitors in the Northern Trust area have provided 28,000 cleats (safety devices); we hope to roll this pilot out across Northern Ireland

• When registering babies, registry offices will provide parents with blind cord safety information

• Advice has been issued to all approved childcare providers and Sure Start

• Blind cord safety information will be included in Standards for Childminding and Day Care

• The Tourist Board provides information on window blind standards for holiday home owners.

New blinds now have to be safe by design, but many existing blinds don't meet the latest safety standards.

Accidents can be prevented if we recognise the hazards and take practical steps. To reduce the risk:

• Install blinds that don't have a cord, or chain

• Do not place a child's cot, bed, playpen, or highchair near a window

• Keep blind cords and chains short and out of reach

• Tie up cords, or chains, or use a cleat, cord-tidy, or clip.

Dr Michael McBride is Chief Medical Officer. He chairs a UK-wide group looking at ways of reducing window blind cord accidents. For further information, go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/blind-cord-safety

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