Bunk Bed Safety

bunk bed safetyBunk bed safety is critical as children's bunk beds are the cause of thousands of children receiving hospital emergency room treatment for injuries. It is important that you know what they are and how to avoid them.

Bunk beds are frequently used as a child's first regular bed after he/she outgrows a crib - either at about age 2 or 35 inches (890 mm) in height. Some bunk beds also are used separately as twin beds for older children and even adults.


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Each year, thousands of children under age 15 receive hospital emergency room treatment for injuries associated with children's bunk beds. Most of these injuries are fairly minor and occur when they fall from these kid beds. Horseplay frequently contributes to these accidents. There are other less obvious yet potentially very serious hazards associated with children's bunk bed structures that have entrapped children and resulted in suffocation or strangulation deaths. Thus bunk bed safety is important.

CPSC is aware of deaths to children under age six that involved head entrapment under children's bunk bed guard rails. To reduce the risk of your child slipping feet first into the space between the lower edge of a guardrail and the top surface of the mattress, CPSC advises for bunk bed safety:

1. Guardrail spacing - On some kid beds, the space between the guardrail and mattress or the bedframe and mattress is large enough to allow a young child to slip through. Deaths have occurred when children became suspended by the head in these spaces and strangled.

Guardrails which are attached to the bed by hooks and remain in place by their own weight can dislodge, allowing a child to become entrapped under the guardrail or fall.

2. Use of the bed without rails on both sides - Most bunk beds are used with one side located against a wall and are sold with only one guardrail for the upper bunk to prevent falls from the side away from the wall. Deaths have occurred when very young children ratted off the bed and became entrapped between the wall and the side of the bed not having a guardrail. This hazard is not unique to bunk beds. Regular beds can present the same hazard.

3. Dislodgement of mattress foundation - The mattress foundation on some bunk beds merely rests on small ledges attached to the bedframe. They can dislodge, particularly if a child, underneath the bunk, pushes or kicks upwards on the mattress. Suffocation deaths have occurred when mattress foundations fell on children playing on the floor or occupying the lowerbunk.

CPSC is also aware of young children who died when their bunk bed mattress and mattress foundation collapsed while they were playing on or under the beds. For bunk bed safety, mattresses and/or foundations resting only on ledges need fastened cross wires, or other means of support to help prevent dislodgement, even when beds are used as twin beds.

4. Wrong size mattress - Bunk bed structures and mattresses come in two lengths - regular and extra long. Extra long is 5 inches (127 mm) longer than regular. Therefore, if a regular length mattress is purchased for an extra long bed, there can be a 5-inch (127 mm) opening between the mattress and headboard or footboard. Strangulation deaths have occurred when children fell through openings created between the mattress and headboard or footboard when a regular length mattress was used in an extra long bed frame.

Here are some bunk bed safety tips for selecting, using, and maintaining children's bunk bed safety:

1. Selection - Choose bunk beds that have:

a. Guardrails on all sides which are screwed, bolted or otherwise firmly attached to the bed structure.

b. Spacing between bed frame and bottom of guard rails that is no greater than 3-1/2 inches (89 mm).bunkbed safety

c. Guardrails that extend at least 5 inches (127 mm) above the mattress surface to prevent a child from rolling off.

d. Cross ties under the mattress foundation which can be securely attached.

e. A ladder that is secured to the bed frame and will not slip when a child climbs on it.

f. A feature which permits the beds to be separated to form two single beds if you have children too young to sleep safety on the upper bunk.

And finally, for bunk bed safety, choose a mattress that correctly fits your bed, whether regular or extra long.

2. Use a Guardrail
In addition, CPSC received reports that children, primarily age one and under, died when they became entrapped between the bed and the wall. A guardrail placed next to the wall, on the lower bunk as well as the upper bunk, will help reduce this risk of entrapment.

a. For bunk bed safety, always use two side guardrails on the upper bunk. Keep guardrails securely in place at all times no matter what the age of the child. Children move about during sleep and may roll out of bed.

b. Do not permit children under 6 years of age to sleep in the upper bunk.

c. Be sure crossties are under the mattress foundation of each bed and that they are secured in place even if bunks are used as twin beds.

d. Emphasize to children to use the ladder and not chairs or other pieces of furniture to climb into orout of the top bunk.

e. Teach children that rough play is unsafe around and on beds and other furniture.

f. Consider using a night light so that children will be able to see the ladder if they get up during the night.

3. Maintenance or Safety Repair
a. For bunk bed safety, if spacing between guard rails and bed frames is more than 3 1/2 inches (89 mm), nail or screw another rail to close the space to prevent head entrapment.

b. Keep guardrails in good repair and securely in place.

c. Replace loose or missing ladder rungs immediately.

d. Repair or replace loose or missing hardware, including cross ties immediately.

More information on bunk bed safety.


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