• Nearly 35,000 children injured at home each year
  • Staircases and windows major risks
  • Clever design can prevent injury

MOST families would trade their home for their safety. Thankfully very few will ever have to make a choice between their house and their wellbeing.

But with about 34,500 children under 15 years of age injured at home each year, according to estimates from the Monash Injury Research Institute, it may pay to take a look at making the family home safer — and a better buy for future house-hunting families.

Realestate spoke to award-winning CK Designworks architect Robert Caulfield, director and president of Kidsafe Victoria, on how to make your property as safe as houses.

The main offenders

About 360,000 Australian children are taken to hospital with injuries each year, according to Mr Caulfield. Many are toddlers.

Staircases are a major risk factor; one in 10 don’t meet safety standards, according to HomeSafeKids research, particularly those in older homes and those using horizontal balustrades a child could climb. Windows without safety glass are also a common cause of injury, and research indicates one in four windows don’t have it.

But Mr Caulfield notes the most common injuries are caused by leaving things within reach of small hands. These include door latches letting children outside, medication or poisonous cleaning agents being left in low cupboards, and benchtops low enough for children to pull items down from them.

“And about 12,000 go to hospital (a year) with finger injuries from doors — and they can be designed so that the child can’t get their fingers caught in them,” he said.

How to stop it

A child safety zone that prevents kids from entering dangerous areas and limits their movement to where an adult can keep an eye on them is ideal.

But Mr Caulfield believes clever design and open-plan living areas installed during a renovation are better still.

“A safety gate in the hallway restricts the child to an area — but it takes physical planning to create those zones within the house,” he said.

“Full height windows so that you can supervise them while they are outside, also help.”

Raising door handles to about 1.5m (1.2m is standard) will also help.

“Once a month there is a child killed when they are run over in their driveway,” he said.

“But a separation between where the child can play and where the car is can stop them getting into the area — even just raising door latches.”

Higher benchtops and adding rounded edges to exposed corners can also be the difference between a bruise and a trip to hospital.

What it costs

Child-safe designs cost about as much as a normal renovation, according to Mr Caulfield.

If it’s just one or two issues that need to be addressed he estimates: Raising door handles around the home should only cost about $100;
Replacing windows with safety glass in a typical home would cost about $10,000 — or you could install a safety film to hold broken shards in place for about $2000.
Reworking your stairs to incorporate horizontal balustrades could cost between $4000 and $8000.

The benefits

Home buyers typically inspect a home and take money from their offered price if they see something in it that needs work.

“More than ever once people become aware that there are safety issues needing to be dealt with they will ask about it, so if your pool isn’t fenced they will deduct money,” Mr Caulfield said.

And Real Estate Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Larocca believes there may be some benefits when it comes time to sell.
“It can be a good market edge as well in a tight market,” he said.


  • TVs – should be bolted to the wall if they do not have a sturdy base
  • Doors – move door handles to 1.5m high
  • Windows – confirm windows are made of safety glass, and replace loose and long cords on all curtains and blinds
  • Zones – use safety gates to restrict children and ensure sharp corners and power points are addressed
  • Plants – remove all toxic plants
  • Fences – should not be near climbable trees
  • Driveways – ensure children’s play areas don’t lead to driveways
  • Sheds – use a self-closing door, with high handles and keep it locked when possible

Posted by Nathan Mawby – Hearld Sun on 5th March, 2013