A balcony can be an enjoyable place to get some fresh air and enjoy the pleasant weather, but it can also pose dangers to small children. Depending on how the balcony is constructed, your child might be at risk of falling over the side or getting stuck in the bars or slats of the actual structure. You don't have to give up spending family time on the balcony, but you do need to put a few safety measures in place to protect your child from injury.
One of the primary hazards associated with a balcony is the risk of falling over the side or slipping between the bars and falling. According to a 2001 article published in Pediatrics, about 140 children under the age of 15 die each year because of a fall. Falling from heights of three stories or higher poses the greatest risk of death, while falls from lower heights are more often associated with serious injuries, such as broken bones, head injuries and bruising.
Children can easily get their heads or body parts stuck between the slats or bars of a balcony railing, too. This poses a fall risk when a child wiggles around trying to get free, but it also poses the risk of other types of injuries, as well. In the most severe cases, a child can get trapped in the balcony railings or slats and suffocate. Getting trapped can also lead to bruising and lacerations.
Making a Balcony Safe
According to the Pediatrics article, new buildings must construct balconies with 4 inches or less between slats or bars. This small gap is enough to let light into the balcony, but it prevents children from being able to slip through. Older buildings might not be required to meet this new code, however, so it's essential to take other safety measures. Install a plastic shield that covers the railings of the balcony and creates a barrier. These are available at most home improvement stores. Many retail stores also sell mesh barriers that are installed across the railings to prevent entrapment and falls. Plexiglass is another option that will make your balcony safer.
Keep any furniture or outside decor away from the edges of the balcony so your child isn't tempted to climb up. Never let your children spend time on the balcony without adult supervision either. Keep the doors leading to the balcony locked at all times so your child doesn't have a way to sneak out when you're not looking. If your child is rambunctious and you think he's in danger despite your safety precautions, spend time outside on flat ground instead. Take your child to a nearby playground or park so he's able to enjoy the great outdoors without being at risk for a serious injury.