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Uncovered cords for window coverings (e.g. roller blinds, concertina blinds, Roman blinds and slatted blinds like Venetian blinds) can pose a risk of strangulation to young children if their heads become entangled (see diagram in Appendix 1).
Appendix 1 – Diagram with examples of corded window coverings hazards
Parents or adult caregivers are often in the best position to control the risk to children in their care. However, there have been cases where strangulation has happened too quickly for the caregivers to react (e.g. while the caregiver was in the bathroom), or during the night when the caregivers were sleeping. A lack of awareness of the risk may cause some caregivers to increase exposure to risk, for example by positioning cots inappropriately close to windows with corded window coverings.
Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all taken steps to address the risk presented by corded window coverings. These jurisdictions have introduced progressively tighter regulations or standards on corded window coverings over the past 15 years.
An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission review of safety standards for corded internal window coverings found most deaths occur in the bedroom and involve children aged between 16 and 36 months. Children of this age are particularly vulnerable to strangulation as their heads weigh proportionately more than their bodies, they have insufficient muscular control to free themselves, and they have underdeveloped windpipes which means they can suffocate quickly and silently, losing consciousness after 15 seconds.
New Zealand currently has no regulations or standards for corded window coverings, so it is legal to sell window coverings with long cords, without any safety devices, that can be reached by children.
In 2021, Coroner Borrowdale recommended that New Zealand declare prescriptive mandatory regulations or standards designed to protect young New Zealanders from the hazards of corded window coverings in domestic settings. The Government is considering regulating corded window coverings under the Fair Trading Act 1986 to address the risks to young children. This document consults on possible options for regulation, as well as other non-regulatory options that could support regulation.