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Furniture Safety

Safety tips for your home furnishings

The ABC's of Furniture Safety by the American Furniture Manufacturer's Association (AFMA)

HOME SAFE HOME

Home Sweet Home has taken on new meaning for today's consumers, and as Americans increasingly turn to their homes as havens for enjoying their family and friends, they are looking for these comfort zones to not only be comfortable and inviting, but safe and secure as well.

To help ensure that Home Sweet Home is also Home Safe Home, the American Furniture Manufacturers Association offers the following ABCs for safe home furnishings:

A is for awareness, which can help prevent accidents in the home.

B is for bunk beds, a good choice for children 6 and older, but not recommended for children under 6.

C is for cribs, the best place for your baby to sleep. Make sure slats or spindles are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and that none are loose or missing. The mattress should be firm and fit snugly in the crib.

D is for drawers, great for stashing your stuff, but terrible as a stepping stool. To prevent tipover, never allow children to climb in drawers or open more than one at a time. Automatic drawer stops, which keep drawers from falling out on unsuspecting feet, are often a good feature, especially if children are in the home.

E is for entertainment center, the perfect place to house your new TV. Just be sure it's the right size so that the TV is properly supported and won't fall forward.

F is for falls, a leading cause of injuries and deaths in the home. Particularly vulnerable are the elderly and young children. To lessen the likelihood of falls, eliminate clutter, be sure rugs have slip-resistant pads, keep electrical cords out of walkways and clean up spills immediately.

G is for guardrails. Bunk beds should have guardrails on each side of the top bunk, with the side against the wall or opposite the ladder running the full length of the bed. The other rail should be secure and sturdy and should extend at least 5 inches above the mattress.

H is for height, which you should consider in bookcases and dressers. If the piece is taller than it is wide, you may want to secure it to the wall to prevent tipover, especially if young children are in the home. And bookcases should never be overloaded, particularly on top.

I is for ideal. Remember that the ideal furnishings for your home are not only comfortable and beautiful, but safe as well.

J is for joiners. It's a good idea to check periodically to make sure all screws, bolts, brackets and other joiners on your furniture are tight and secure.

K is for kids, who love to play but who should never be allowed to play or climb on furniture, especially on bunk beds, dressers or open reclining chairs.

L is for lids and latches. Toy and storage chests should have safety latches that prevent the lid from falling freely or slamming shut on fingers or a child's head. Lids should not lock automatically. If you have an older chest without a safety latch, contact the manufacturer for a replacement latch, or remove the lid.

M is for matches, which should be kept away from children. Children playing with matches or lighters are the second leading cause of fires in the home, behind cooking accidents. Careless smoking is the third leading cause of fires.

N is for nighttime, when it gets dark. When the sun goes down, lighting should come on. Use a variety of floor and table lamps, as well as ceiling and wall fixtures, to ensure that your home is well-lit so people can move around safely. Candles are a nice touch for evening, but use caution near upholstery and bedding.

O is for old, which could be dangerous. Be sure older pieces of furniture do not contain lead paint that is flaking. Also check for sturdiness and stability.

P is for pathways, which should be clutter free and well-lit, both inside and outside the home. Furniture should be arranged to allow easy walk through.

Q is for quality. Buy the best you can afford – for safety's sake. Quality furniture, regardless of price range, is manufactured with safety in mind.

R is for recliner, a comfortable seat, but one that requires caution. Only one adult should sit in a recliner at a time, and children should never be allowed to play on or around a recliner. To prevent cuts and lacerations, do not put your hands or fingers under the mechanism to operate the chair.

S is for supervision, for which there is no substitute. No matter how safe the products in your home are, small children should always be supervised by a responsible adult.

T is for temptation, which should be avoided. To prevent tempting your children to climb on furniture, do not place enticing objects on tops of dressers or bookcases.

U is for UFAC, the Upholstered Furniture Action Council. When buying new upholstered furniture, look for the gold UFAC tag ensuring that the manufacturer has agreed to meet UFAC's construction criteria. The voluntary UFAC program has been credited with contributing to a nearly 80% reduction in the number of upholstered furniture fires started by smoldering cigarettes.

V is for vigilant, which is what you should be when it comes to home safety.

W is for windows, which provide a wonderful view. But furniture, especially children's beds, should not be placed near windows where children can climb or fall out.

X is for X-ing out accidents in your home. Following these simple ABC tips will lead you on your way to safety at home.

Y is for yawning, leading us to...

Z, which is for the great ZZZs you'll catch when you know your family is safe at home.

FURNITURE SAFETY TIPS

General Guidelines

Furniture surfaces should be smooth and free of splinters or rough edges. Nails, screws and other joiners should be tight and unexposed. Be wary of older pieces of furniture that may contain lead paint.

Bunk Beds

Bunk beds are not recommended for children under six years of age. The top bunk should have guardrails on each side, with no more than 15 inches open at each end. Rails should be secure and sturdy, and they should extend at least 5 inches above the top surface of the mattress. The mattress should be the proper size, as stated by the manufacturer. Always use a sturdy ladder to access the top bunk, and only one person should be on the top bunk at a time.

New Upholstery

Buy new upholstery that displays the gold UFAC tag. This tag ensures that the manufacturer of the furniture has met the construction criteria outlined by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council.

Cribs

Crib slats or spindles should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, and none should be loose or missing. Check to make sure all screws, brackets and other hardware on the crib are properly installed and intact. The mattress should fit snugly, with no more than two-fingers width between the edge of the mattress and the crib.

Dressers and Chests of Drawers

Drawers should slide in and out easily. When purchasing children's furniture, check for automatic drawer stops that prevent the drawer from falling out on unsuspecting children. Open only one drawer at a time. And never allow children to stand in open drawers because of the danger of the piece tipping over.

Bookcases

Be careful not to overload the shelves. In some cases, it may be a good idea to secure the top portion of the unit to the wall to prevent it from tipping over, especially if children are present in the home. In some pieces, especially in youth groups, a shelf unit attaches to a desk or chest. Always be sure those units are attached properly and securely.

Entertainment Centers and TV Stands

It's important to use the correct size furniture to house your television. Because of their weight, especially the popular larger models, TVs can fall forward if they are not properly supported. Furniture manufacturers offer a wealth of entertainment centers designed to accommodate today's electronics, so there's sure to be a piece to suit your needs.

Storage and Toy Chests

Lids should feature safety latches that prevent the top from falling freely or slamming shut on fingers or a child's head. Lids also should not lock automatically. If you have an older chest without safety latches, it is recommended that you contact the manufacturer for a replacement latch or remove the lid.

Reclining Chairs

Voluntary industry guidelines have made today's reclining chairs safer, but children should never be allowed to play on the chairs, particularly when the chair is in a reclined position.

Recliner Safety Tips

Safety advice for recliners and reclining furniture.

from the American Furniture Manufacturer's Association (AMFA)

To prevent cuts and lacerations, do not put your hands or fingers under the mechanism to operate the chair. Only the occupant should operate the chair, and never attempt to open the chair by pulling on the footrest.

Sit down in the chair slowly. To avoid tip-over, do not throw your weight against the back of the chair. Move the chair into the reclining position slowly, making sure that no children or pets are in close proximity. Do not allow children to play on or around a recliner, particularly if it is in an open position.

Close the recliner completely before getting out of it.

Never sit on the footrest when it is open, or allow children to do so.

To eliminate the risk of tip-over, do not sit on the arms or footrest of the recliner.

Only one adult should sit in a recliner at a time.

Watch for pets who may choose to lie down underneath the chair.

When moving your recliner, be sure it is completely closed. Pick the chair up by the arms; never pick up the chair from underneath.

Be sure the chair is constructed so there is no more than 5 inches opening between the seat and the leg rest to eliminate the possibility of a child becoming trapped in the opening. Older chairs may not meet this voluntary standard that was adopted in the late 1980s.

When shopping for a new recliner, look for the gold UFAC tag ensuring that the manufacturer has agreed to meet construction criteria suggested by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council. The voluntary UFAC program has been credited with contributing to a nearly 80% reduction in the number of upholstered furniture fires started by smoldering cigarettes.

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