Reducing the inherent risk of cord-operated blinds

Jason Petterson's photo
Written by Jason Petterson
08.09.2017

Protecting our children from the world around them can sometimes seem an impossible task. Even regular household items can pose a lethal risk and window blinds are no exception.

It’s a sad fact but the looped cords and chains used to operate many window blinds can pose a very real and lethal risk of strangulation to young and vulnerable children. In fact, it is estimated that one or two die every year.

Helping us to protect against these kinds of accidents are safety standards like the BS EN 13120 which specifically lays out directions for the manufacture and installation of cord-operated blinds.  There is a lot of important but complex information covered, and revisions of previous iterations, so it can quickly get confusing. I've found this BBSA-produced document on the RoSPA website to be very useful in breaking the subject down, making it easier to remember.

For more information on the limitations applied to cord lengths, and how to calculate them, check the tables in our own child safety overview document.

A few key points to remember about the BS EN 13120 are:

•  It applies to blinds that MAY be accessible to children between 0-42 months old

•  Since 2014, compliance is required by all internal window blinds

•  Blinds must be safe by design or;

•  Supplied with the appropriate child safety devices installed

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Blinds that are considered 'safe by design' are usually operated by alternative means eg. tensioned pleated blinds or wand operated verticals. By eliminating the looped cords and chains, these options and other such as motorised rollers are inherently child-safe, and we recommend making it your best practice to consider them as your first choice for any install, especially when they are to be fitted somewhere like a child's bedroom.

As motorised operation becomes the norm and we begin to see control options like wall switches, handheld remotes and smartphone apps entering the market, we're optimistic that the industry is heading in a direction that will see all window blinds become inherently child-safe.

Currently, however, cords and chains are sometimes unavoidable so, even when they are limited to the correct length, they must be accompanied by child safety devices. These can come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the type of blind, but their primary function is to either break the loop when pressure is applied or to tension the cord and restrict the distance between strands to 50mm or less.

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Whether a manufacturer, retailer or fitter, it’s clear that we must all be aware of the regulations that are in place to protect our clients, children and ourselves. What we’ve covered here is just a preliminary summary and we would urge everyone to continue to learn more, especially if you’re in a position to reduce these risks.

The BBSA’s makeitsafe.org.uk website is a great resource for more documents and videos on regulations and best practice. Stay safe.