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How safe are your windows and balconies?

Study looks into accidental falls of kids from heights in the UAE, stresses need to prevent them

Image Credit: XPRESS/ VIRENDRA SAKLANI
Picture is for illustrative purpose only
XPRESS

Al Ain: Eighty-one per cent of children who have fallen from heights in the UAE have ended up dying, a nationwide study has found, underlining the dire need for preventive care.

Conducted by Al Ain-based Michal Grivna (left), professor and director of the Institute of Public Health - College of Medicine and Health Sciences and his team of students, the recent study looked into reported instances of children ages one to 15 who fell from balconies and windows in buildings across the UAE between 2005 and 2016.

The aim was to assess the nature of the incidents and find out the personal and environmental risk factors for falls of kids from windows and balconies.

Prof. Grivna said, “Child falls from windows and balconies are preventable. Despite many efforts by UAE authorities to enforce window and balcony safety regulations, falls do occur. There is a challenge with the turnover of the expatriate community which needs to be constantly educated about safety risks and importance of vigilance.”

With information about falls from heights difficult to come by, tthe professor’s team adopted a retrospective study design to electronically assess reports of “unintentional” child falls from windows and balconies of residences by major Arabic and English publications in the UAE. Of the 96 incidents reported, 81 were taken up for analysis after cases of duplicity and intentional falls like suicide and homicide were excluded.

Not alone

The assessment threw up some revealing facts: Fifty-three per cent of the falls involved boys with the mean age being 4.9 years. Forty-seven per cent fell from windows and 44 per cent from balconies. The study said 27 per cent of the children climbed on furniture placed in a balcony or close to a window.

Information about supervision was available in 43 cases. Significantly, the children were not alone in their homes when they fell in most of these instances. The mother, father or both parents were present in 72 per cent of the cases, grandmother or aunt in two cases, maid in two cases and older sibling in one case.

According to the study, 37 per cent fell from less than five floors. While 66 died, 15 were hospitalised and survived.

The study also showed that the maximum number of falls were in Sharjah (39) followed by Abu Dhabi (16), Dubai (10), Ajman (nine), Fujairah (four) and Ras Al Khaimah (two).

Age group

In terms of the nationalities of the victims, 40 were Arabs, 24 Asian, three Emirati and eight others.

Sixty-one of the children who fell were younger than five years, 11 between six and 10 and seven between 11 and 15. Prof Grivna said there are many lessons to be learnt.

“Small children should be not be allowed to stay home alone. Access to balconies should be limited only to adults. Windows should be equipped with proper guards. Furniture should not be placed close to windows or on balconies,” he noted.

A similar study conducted in New York also underlines the importance of supervision and vigilance by parents and maids, community education and installation of window guards.

Steps to prevent falls from high spaces

■ Greater community awareness

■ Better parental supervision

■ Making environment foolproof

■ Installation of window guards and screens

■ Removal of furniture near windows and in balconies

■ Reducing spacing of railings in balconies, decks, porches etc

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