All of us with children know that one of the most challenging times is when a little one starts crawling and then taking his or her first steps. Parents depend on baby gates to keep their little ones from falling down the stairs or getting into areas like the kitchen where they could be injured.
However, baby gates can have their own dangers. In 2011, there were approximately 2,800 injuries to children under five years old that resulted in a trip to the emergency room. An even more frightening statistic comes from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC reports that between 2007 and 2009, on average, baby gates have resulted in the death of one child each year. Some deaths have occurred because a child was strangled in older accordion-type gates and circular wooden gates.
A number of baby gates have been recalled in recent years due to defects. Between 2007 and 2013, over 281,000 gates were recalled. Some were recalled because the hinges and other parts that hold the gate in place could break, making the gate unstable. If the gate is at the top of the stairs, this could result in a nasty fall. In other cases, gates were recalled because plastic pieces were found to be potential choking hazards.
So what is a parent to do when looking for a gate to protect one's children from accessing a stairway or a part of the home where they could be harmed as they start exploring their surroundings?
-- If you are buying a gate to place at the top of the stairs, make sure that it is equipped to do the job. Pressure gates that have no mounting hardware should never be placed in these locations.
-- Don't buy accordion-style gates. These may still be available at second-hand stores or online. However, their openings are large enough for a child to get his or her head caught in, potentially causing strangulation.
-- Do your homework. Check sites like ConsumerReports.org and SafeKids.org for ratings as well as recall information.
If your child is injured or worse because a gate or enclosure did not function as it should, it's essential to report that to the manufacturer and look at your legal options. When products designed to protect children don't do their job, taking action against the manufacturer could literally save lives.
Source: Kids in Danger, "Product Hazards – Baby Gates and Enclosures," accessed Aug. 06, 2015