Product safety laws unleash unsafe furniture

29 June 2016 | Child deaths have prompted an Ikea recall in North America, but not in Australia.

Falling furniture

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is under fire this week after announcing a recall of its Malm chests of drawers and other similar products in the USA and Canada but not in Australia.

Following the death of three young children in the past two years as a result of tipping Malm drawers, Ikea has issued the recall in North America of an estimated 29 million units of furniture.

The situation in Australia

So far in Australia, Ikea has launched a safety campaign to help prevent tip-over incidents but the products are still available to buy, along with instructions that the Ikea chests and dressers are safe when attached to the wall.

However, despite warning customers about the foothold hazard and providing a bracket to attach the furniture to the wall, the screws/fixing devices are not supplied with the drawers, so consumers aren't provided everything they need to keep children safe when using this product.

Additionally, there are some concerns that attaching furniture to walls is not an option for renters, as the tenant must get the landlord's consent to make alterations to the property.

At CHOICE we're calling on Ikea to extend the recall to Australia to prevent further tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children. "With 29 million products being recalled in the United States and Canada, there is no good reason why Ikea shouldn't recall these products in Australia," says CHOICE head of communications Tom Godfrey. "Ikea needs to recall these products immediately and alert consumers to the very real risk they present."

Product safety laws leave room for improvement

Many people may be surprised to learn that under the current Australian Consumer Law there's no mandatory requirement for retailers to sell safe products or notify the public when one of their products has resulted in someone being injured or hospitalised. Despite this, since 2011 companies have made 10,000 mandatory safety reports after their product injured a consumer – but the information remains confidential.

Godfrey says this latest issue with Ikea is another example of why there needs to be a review of product safety laws in Australia. "The laws need to change so that suppliers of products have a clear legal obligation to make sure that the products they sell are safe," he says.

CHOICE tips to prevent furniture tip-over incidents

  • Secure it! Furniture must be properly and securely attached to the wall. A tip-over restraint is usually provided with the product; be sure to use the right hardware for your wall type, and check assembly instructions.
  • Never put a TV or other heavy objects on top of a chest of drawers, or any furniture not intended for use with a TV.
  • Place heavy objects in the lowest drawers.
  • Never let children climb or hang on drawers, doors or shelves.

For more on keeping your child safe around the home, including our rundown on child safety devices, go to Children and safety.