There is perhaps no better day to talk of a child’s right to be safe than the Emirati Children’s Day which champions children’s rights as guaranteed by law, and focuses on their happiness, health, security and overall well-being.
The UAE’s child protection laws ensure that every child has the right to live in a safe environment. Yet, accidental deaths and falls from high-rise residential towers across the UAE are a sobering reminder of the dangers posed by open windows and balconies.
Leaving children alone or unattended at home threatens their safety, and such tragic incidents reinforce the message that ‘child safety begins at home’.
As the primary custodians and guardians of the young, parents and caregivers must practice a culture of safety in the home and educate themselves to identify and eliminate hazards to prevent injuries and/or accidental deaths.
Every adult-friendly home has plenty of potential hazards for a child of any age. Due to their lack of experience or development, nothing prepares children for the consequences of a new situation they may encounter them as they also tend to have a very limited perception of their environment.
Hanadi Al Yafei, Director of Child Safety Department (CSD), an affiliate of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, highlights a few precautionary measures parents ought to take to prevent accidental falls from balconies and windows, and keep their little ones safe within the home environment.
1. Children are curious by nature: Do not underestimate your child’s mobility levels. Children begin climbing before they can walk and are ever so curious to explore something new. As a child grows and learns new skills, continue to remain alert for new hazards.
2. Remove furniture from balconies and windows: Do not put anything under the window that can be climbed on. Move furniture or planters away from the balcony railings to prevent the risk of a fall. Preferably, keep limited balcony spaces free of furniture.
3. Never leave a child unattended: Supervision is always key to keeping a child safe but remaining vigilant and child-proofing your home are equally important. Be at arm’s length of your kids in the balcony.
4. Install window guards and locks: If you cannot keep your windows and doors to balconies locked always, install window guards and safety guards across entries to balconies as soon as your child begins to crawl. Or opt for window stoppers that limit the distance a window can open. Window screens are not a solution – they DO NOT protect kids from falling through.
5. Check the railing’s gaps: Ensure that distance between railings, and between the bottom rail and floor, are no more than 4 inches. Anything wider, and a child can easily slip through. Watch out for ladder-like horizontal bars that can be used to climb up and over the top.
6. Teach your child about safety: Talk to your children about the dangers of opening and playing near windows and establish ground rules that balconies are off limits unless they are with an adult.