12 Tips to Prevent Bunk Bed Injuries

Twin sisters (5-7) lying on bunk beds
Bunk beds are not meant for horseplay. Photo (c) Diana Koenigsberg/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Bunk bed injuries are a leading cause for visits to the doctor. How can a piece of furniture be such a great source of childhood injuries, some of them very serious, even fatal?

Turns out that the answer lies in how this piece of furniture is used. Most injuries stem from unsafe behavior around bunk beds and but some have also arisen from faulty construction. It stands to reason that consumers should enforce safe behavior and check out if their bunk beds adhere to new construction standards.

Bunk Bed Safe Behavior:

Make sure to enforce these safety rules, and go over them with your kids.

  • Children under the age of six should not be left unattended in a room with bunk beds, or be allowed to use them. The greatest instances of bunk bed-related injuries are from falls, and more than half of them occur in children under the age of five.
  • Only one person should be allowed on the top bunk at a time and there should be absolutely no horseplay on or under beds.
  • Do not let children hang any items, for instance, hooks, belts, jump ropes, etc. to any part of the bunk bed as it could pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Make sure to reinforce bunk bed safety rules regularly. Go over the rules whenever your child has a fiend sleep over. Never assume that they may be familiar with your rules, and remember they may need reminding even if they have slept over before.

Safe Bunk Bed Construction:

While safety rules help, make sure that your bunk bed adheres to these safety rules in construction as well.

This is especially true if you are purchasing used bunk beds. Earlier models may not be compliant to the new safety standards that are now in place. You may want to check out the CPSC website for more details.

  • There should be guardrails on the top bunk and the single opening for entering and exiting should be no more than 15 inches.
  • The rails on the top bunk should extend at least 5 inches above the top surface of the mattress. Check the rails to make sure they are sturdy.
  • Make sure that the mattress is the proper size for the unit, as stated by the manufacturer. Never use a smaller or larger size as it could fall and hurt the child using it, as well as the one in the lower bunk.
  • Always have your child use a sturdy ladder to enter and leave the top bunk. The ladder should be free of toys, clothes or other clutter.
  • According to new guidelines published by ASTM International in 2007, bunk beds manufactured after March 2008 may not have any type of “finial” or corner post on the headboard or footboard. This is to help prevent accidental strangulation caused by something the child is wearing or carrying catching on the bed as the child exits the upper bunk.

Safe Bunk Bed Placement:

Furniture placement plays a big role in how it gets used. Make sure that bunk beds are placed so that it is easy for the child to get in and out of them.

  • Never position a bunk bed under or near a ceiling fan or ceiling light fixture.
  • Do not place the bunk bed against a window.
  • Make sure that there is room for your child to sit up without bumping his head on the ceiling.