Toppling television danger

Hospitals are reporting a significant number of injuries resulting from a TV falling onto a child.
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  • Updated:7 Jul 2008



Victims are particularly children under five, and the incidents include fatalities and some injuries requiring hospitalisation.

For example, three months ago NZ newspapers reported the death of a 10-month-old boy who pulled himself up using a bookshelf and was fatally struck when the TV perched on top of it toppled onto his head. And the bigger the TV, the heavier it is and the greater potential it has to cause injury if it falls on a child.

Given the injuries that are happening, and our own findings when checking the stability of a few TVs, we’re concerned that the stability test in the Australian safety standard may not be rigorous enough to identify potentially unstable TVs. We’ve passed our concerns onto Standards Australia with a view to getting the TV stability test improved.

In the meantime we’d like to see manufacturers of these large TVs make them safer by supplying an anchor point at the back of the set and appropriate fittings for you to anchor it safely in your home. While most of the TVs tested don’t have an anchor point, the instruction manuals for most give tips for safe installation.

Tips for TV safety

Child and TVYou can make an accident more likely to happen if you put the TV on an unstable or unsuitable surface.

  • Even if you buy a proper TV stand, only a stand the manufacturer has specifically designed for a particular TV will have been subjected to a standard test for stability. (CHOICE is currently working with Standards Australia towards a stability standard for all TV stands on sale.) If you already have one, make sure it has a wide, deep and sturdy base and is suitable for your TV’s size.
  • If you won’t be using a TV stand, put the TV on a low, stable surface as far back as possible. Don’t put it on unsuitable furniture like a chest of drawers, speaker, bookcase or trolley.
  • Don’t put items like the remote control, VCR, DVD or toys on top of it, tempting children to climb up to reach them.
  • Look for any manufacturer instructions on how you might secure the television.
  • If there’s an anchor point at the back of the TV, fix it to a stable surface — but don’t try to create an anchor point on the TV yourself.

Case study

In late November 2004, Nicholas Morrow, nearly 3, was playing in the front room of the house while his heavily-pregnant mother Clare was in the kitchen. His father James, who works from home, was busy in the next room. Then all of a sudden James heard a crash.

“I rushed in and the TV was over and he was just sitting amidst the machines,” he says. “He wasn’t crying or screaming, he just wanted to lie down.” Clearly in shock Nicholas was quiet, but before long his left leg began to swell and Clare, a trainee nurse, recognised the tell-tale sign of a fracture. A trip to the children’s hospital confirmed her diagnosis and Nicholas spent the next few days there in traction. Now home, he’s in a body-cast he’ll have to wear for at least a month.

How it happened

When we asked Nicholas to demonstrate what had happened (see picture), his actions showed that even though his family had followed the manufacturer’s safety instructions – which basically just said not to locate the TV any place little children could reach – it was still an accident waiting to happen: installed on top of a chest of drawers, when Nicholas tugged on a drawer handle, the TV rocked and was clearly unstable.

Stop this happening to you

“We’ve become a community service announcement to bolt your TV to the wall,” says Clare, who, shaking her head observes that even when she tells people their story it’s amazing how few think it could happen to them. “Most say their children are too young, or the TV’s too high or so low it won’t fall, or ‘they know not to touch the TV’”.

What else Choice is doing about this

CHOICE is also working with Standards Australia to improve the test for TV stability and to add a test for TV stand stability. In the meantime, we’d like to see manufacturers of televisions make them safer by supplying an anchor point at the back of the set and appropriate fittings for you to anchor it safely in your home.



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