Falls from Low Windows

Every year, roughly 2.5 million children are treated in the United States for fall-related injuries. Of these, falls from low windows tend to be the most serious and fatal, especially among male toddlers. Older children are more likely to be seriously injured by window falls as summer approaches and they spend more time around the home. This problem is heightened by the fact that windows are left open for ventilation more often during the summer months than the rest of the year. Inspectors should be ready to field questions from concerned clients, especially those with small children, about the dangers posed by falls from low windows.

The following are window safety tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

  • When ventilation is not needed, windows should be closed and locked.
  • Windows can be equipped with window guards to prevent children from falling out. In some jurisdictions, such as New York City, window guards are required in apartments where children reside. These devices are constructed of horizontal bars spaced close enough together so that a 5-inch ball cannot pass through. Proper window guard placement can be determined by the local building code official or the local fire department. Window guards should include a quick-release mechanism to allow for a rapid exit in the case of an emergency.
  • Furniture that children can climb, such as dressers, beds and toy chests, should be kept away from windows.
  • Window screens are designed to keep insects outside of a house and should not be relied upon to keep children from falling out of windows.
  • Shrubs, wood chips, grass or other soft surfaces may be strategically placed beneath windows in order to lessen the degree of injury sustained from falls.
  • Children’s play areas should be kept away from open windows.
  • If possible, ventilation should come from the upper sash of a double-hung window rather than the lower sash, which may be more accessible to a child.
  • Windows that are low to the floor may be particularly easy for young children to operate. The inspector may point out low windows so the client understands their danger. The windows in the photo are low enough to be easily accessed by a small child.

In summary, inspectors can protect their clients from falls from low windows by offering them some basic facts about window safety.