On October 9, 2023, ESi Principal Dennis Brickman presented important research on bunk bed entrapment hazards at the XXXVth Annual Occupational Ergonomics and Safety Conference in Munich, Germany. The peer-reviewed paper, titled “Residential Bunk Bed Child Entrapment Hazard Safety Test Methods,” was co-authored with Joseph Mohorovic, Anne Mathias, and Erick Knox, and details the investigation of a fatal accident involving a two-year-old child, who became entrapped between his bunk bed and the bunk bed ladder at his home in Ohio.
As part of the investigation, the authors performed an accident reconstruction of the event using the subject bed bunk, an anthropomorphic child dummy, and a representative ladder. Applying a systematic biomechanical and human factors-based methodology, they demonstrated that the bunk bed ladder brackets and the gap between the brackets and bed frame allowed the ladder to lift and tilt, increasing the space between the ladder and the bunk bed and creating a child entrapment hazard.
The authors also reviewed existing safety standards and regulations related to residential bunk beds, both in the United States and internationally, and recommended additions to help reduce the risk of a similar incident, including dimensional specifications for the gap between the ladder top rung and the upper bunk, and improved ladder tilting test methods and requirements.
After the incident, the U.S. CPSC independently found that the ladder's metal hook on the bunk bed frame could move away or detach when the ladder was lifted, creating a risk of child entrapment and strangulation. The bunk bed importer issued a recall and provided consumers with a retrofit reinforced ladder bracket to inhibit the tilting of the ladder and prevent this hazard.
The primary goal of this investigation was to identify alternative safety testing methods, raise awareness about potential entrapment hazards associated with bunk bed ladder tilting and repositioning, and mitigate the risks associated with this type of residential bunk bed design. The authors’ research and findings highlight the critical role of rigorous safety testing during the design, development, and manufacture of consumer products, and underscore the need to consider the unique risks associated with products which may be used by children, including size, physical development, and cognitive abilities.
The published paper will be available as part of the ISOES conference proceedings. For more information, reach out to Dennis Brickman at email@example.com.
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