Building code changes will prevent kids from falling out windows, city says

City officials say years of advocating for changes to the National Building Code to make second-storey windows safer for children seem to have finally paid off.

15% of major trauma patients at Alberta Children's Hospital in 2016 were children who fell out windows

The City of Calgary has been working with the National Research Council (NRC) and medical advocates to get changes made to the National Building Code to reduce the risk of children falling out of residential windows. (City of Calgary)

City officials say years of advocating for changes to the National Building Code to make second-storey windows safer for children seem to have finally paid off.

"Every year across Canada, over 420 young children are treated in emergency departments because they have fallen out of second-storey windows in their homes," said City of Calgary Chief Building Official Marco Civitarese in a release.

The city has been working with the National Research Council (NRC) and emergency pediatrician Dr. Michelle Simonelli to make changes to the National Building Code make windows safer for children.

Every year about 50 children are treated in Alberta ERs after falling from windows, says Simonelli, who is the Medical Director of Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) at Alberta Children's Hospital.

At the Alberta Children's Hospital in 2016, 15 per cent of major trauma patients were children who fell out of the windows in their own homes.

Simonelli says children who fall out windows often suffer severe injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, skull and spine fractures, and internal injuries such as liver lacerations.

Emergency crews care for a young patient who fell out of a second-storey window at a Calgary house. (City of Calgary)

"These children were too young to understand the risks of playing by an unprotected window or pushing against window screens, which are not designed to keep them from falling through," Simonelli said.

As it stands, the building code has no restrictions on how wide a second-storey window in a house can be opened, how far from the floor can be, or any mandatory safety devices to restrict opening a window.

The proposed changes include a new rule stating that the portion of a second storey window that is able to open must be at least three feet from the finished floor, or the window must have a device in place to permanently restrict the opening to no more than four inches.

Officials say they're confident the new rules will be added to the revised National Building Code that comes into force next year.

It will apply only to new homes, so officials recommend parents consider installing child locks or opening-limiters as part of baby-proofing their home.


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