Reality Alert: A one-year-old child suffered a skull fracture after falling from a changing table. The child rolled off the changing table onto the floor while another child unexpectedly diverted the childcare provider’s attention. Fortunately, the child recovered from the skull fracture and no permanent damage was done. The employee claimed she only turned her back for a second, which illustrates why changing tables must be equipped with appropriate guardrails and parents and caregivers must never allow distractions while children are in elevated positions.
How to Make a Changing Table Safe for Kids
Every year, children sustain serious and occasionally debilitating injuries after falling from changing tables. The vast majority of these preventable injuries occur when parents or caregivers become momentarily distracted. Children can roll or pull themselves off changing tables in seconds, which is why they need to be placed on a secure changing table and must be monitored constantly. These suggestions will make any changing table safer for kids:
- Guardrails: A suitable changing table should have a guardrail at least two inches tall on all four sides. Purchase a changing table with stable guardrails and routinely inspect them for wear and tear.
- Concave Changing Surfaces: A safe changing table will be concave by design, meaning the middle will be slightly lower than the sides. This design keeps the child in the middle of the table and makes it more difficult to roll towards the sides.
- Safety Straps: Changing tables with a safety strap have an extra level of protection. Remember, however, that the strap is designed to keep the child in place; it is not designed to keep them secured to the table. Even when using a changing table with a strap, you should still never let the child out of your sight. Regularly inspect the strap in order to make sure it is in safe working order.
- Keep All Supplies Within Reach: Keeping all diaper changing supplies handy will prevent the need to ever leave a child unattended. Be sure, however, to keep supplies out of arm’s reach so the child is unable to pull anything on top of them.
- Inspect Changing Tables: Over time, changing tables, especially collapsible ones, break down and need to be repaired or replaced. Never place a child on a changing table that hasn’t been thoroughly inspected, particularly if you have not used the table in the past.
Making a Changing Table Safe for Parents and Caregivers
The safety of parents and caregivers is often overlooked with so much emphasis placed on the well being of children. Anyone that regularly lifts and lowers children from changing tables is just begging for back and shoulder injuries. Lifting children is an essential part of caregiving, but these steps can help protect your long-term health:
- Teach Proper Lifting Technique: Properly lifting a child can greatly reduce the amount of back injuries. Some proper lifting techniques include:
- Keeping anything – but especially something that can move unexpectedly like a child – you lift close to your body.
- Avoid bending or twisting whenever possible.
- Lift with your legs; not with your arms, back or shoulders.
- If, for whatever reason, you are unable to lift a child by yourself, ask for assistance.
- Use Height-Appropriate Changing Tables: Depending on the height of the people using the changing table, you may consider purchasing a shorter or taller table. Straining to reach a changing table that is too high or too low can put unnecessary strain on an individual’s back.
- Provide Step Stools for Shorter Employees: If buying a height-appropriate changing table is not feasible, using a step stool will help reduce back injuries and will keep children safer since employees won’t have to strain to place them on the table. Make sure, however, that you use an appropriate step stool! Read about how one childcare provider accidentally broke a two-year-old girl’s leg after falling from kiddie chair.