Rabu, 13 April 2011

Kids Can't Fly

A couple of years ago Dr Danny Cass, head of Emergency and Trauma at the Children's Hospital, Westmead, noticed something: an increasing number of his tiny patients had sustained their injuries from falls from residential windows and balconies.

Looking over his records, Dr Cass found that over the ten years to 2008, 169 children had been admitted for this reason – and that's just at the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Last month the Children's Hospital at Westmead released the report of its Working Party for the Prevention of Children Falling from Residential Buildings. Its recommendations include making amendments to residential tenancies and strata legislation to require landlords and owners corporations to provide safety devices (window guards, durable and sturdy mesh screens, locks, winow opening limiters) or other permanently affixed devices on openable windows more than three metres above an external surface, such that occupants could limit the window opening to 100 millimetres.

The same month yet another child, a boy two years old, fell from a window at home and died.

The issue of window safety was not specifically considered in the review of residential tenancies law that led to the recently commenced Residential Tenancies Act 2010. The relevant provisions of the Act – that premises must be provided and mainatained in a state of reasonable repair, and must comply with health and safety legislation – do not go so far as to specifically require the window safety devices described by the Children's Hosital's report. This means that tenants who ask their landlords to install such devices might be told 'no, the windows in reasonable repair/safe enough as is'. And of course there are many more tenants and landlords who, in the absence of a specific requirement for window safety devices, may not turn their minds to the issue at all – until it's too late.

The Tenants' Union strongly supports the Children's Hospital's proposals. They can and should be implemented now – and there could be no more worthwhile first item of business for a new Fair Trading Minister.