Each spring in Calgary and in Canada, children fall from windows at home. These accidents often result in a 911 call and sometimes hospital admission.
Keep children safe - new building codes for safer windows
With more than 400 children ending up in emergency rooms across the country each year due to falls from windows in houses, The City and Alberta Health Services helped to lead changes in the National Building Code of Canada 2020, with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. The result of this change in building codes is safer windows in newly built single-detached homes across the country.
The updated building code requirements will come into effect when they are adopted by the provinces and territories, which is expected in Alberta in spring 2023.
Now, there are a number of requirements for single-detached homes with an openable window that is six feet or more above the ground (e.g., on the second storey):
- Limits how much a window can open on the second storey of newly built single-detached homes.
- Installed at least three feet from the finished floor
- Protected by a guard
- Have a device in place to limit how much the window can open
You can find all the latest building codes for safer windows in the National Building Codes of Canada 2020 (page 1345).
The code changes are not a retroactive requirement- existing windows may not have these safety features. The building code would still require a bedroom egress window for emergencies.
What you can do in existing homes
- Keep windows out of reach. Move furniture such as cribs, beds, stools, and change tables away from windows.
- Teach children never to lean against windows or open screens. It takes very little force to push through an open screen.
- Consider installing window opening control devices. They restrict the window opening to four inches. Another option is a device that is like a baby gate for a window.
- If you are using safety devices in a bedroom window, an adult must be able to quickly remove or disable these devices in an emergency.
Please remember: Window screens do not prevent falls.
Window falls happen regularly and cause serious damage
- In 2016, 175 Alberta children were brought to an emergency department with fall-related injuries from windows and balconies. Twenty were admitted to hospital.
- In 2016, 23 per cent of major trauma patients at Alberta Children’s Hospital (Calgary) were injured in a fall; 56 per cent were from second floor windows or higher.
- In Alberta, 28 per cent of children who visit the emergency room after falling from a multi-storey window are admitted and treated for:
- Skull fractures and brain injuries
- Cervical spine factures
- Facial and long bone fractures
- Spleen or liver lacerations
- In Canada, 420 children up to nine years old visit the emergency room after a window fall, and 84 require hospitalization.