Tips for Preventing Bunk Bed Injuries

Twin sisters smiling and lying on bunk beds.

Photo (c) Diana Koenigsberg / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Bunk bed injuries are fairly common, largely due to how this piece of furniture is used and who sleeps in. Combine rambunctious children with a piece of furniture that encourages climbing, and it is no wonder that accidents happen. In an average year, statistics show that about 36,000 bunk-bed-related injuries to children occur. Most injuries stem from unsafe behavior around bunk beds, but some have also arisen from faulty construction. It stands to reason that consumers should always make sure the bunk beds they buy conform with the most recent construction standards, but beyond this, there is plenty you can do to make sure they are used safely.

Bunk Bed Safety Rules

Make sure to understand 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 to 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 such as belts or jump ropes to any part of the bunk bed, as these can pose a strangulation risk.
  • Make sure to reinforce bunk bed safety rules regularly. Go over the rules whenever your child has a friend sleepover. Never assume that others are familiar with your rules, and remember that visitors 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 with the new safety standards that are now in place. You may want to check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission (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 wide.
  • 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 mattress, 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, and 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 if something the child is wearing or carrying catches on the bed while he or she 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 or her head on the ceiling.