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Tips provided to prevent kids falling from balconies as Japan hits autumn accident peak

This photo taken in Tokyo in August 1981 shows arms for laundry-hanging rods on a balcony. In one past accident, a small child fell while swinging on one of these rods. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- After a spate of fatal incidents of children falling from balconies across Japan, a review of historical data has revealed that such cases tend to peak in spring and fall. The Mainichi Shimbun takes a look at the data and introduces advice provided to curb such accidents.

    Three fatal falls occurred between late October and early November: one each in Tokyo, Chiba and Osaka prefectures. According to data released by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, during the five-year span from 2014 to 2018, there were 37 incidents in which children under 10 years of age died in falls from buildings.

    This leaflet provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offers information for parents to keep their kids safe on balconies.

    Furthermore, data from the Tokyo Fire Department shows that 70 children under the age of 6 were taken to hospital for falls from balconies and windows between 2015 and 2019. Forty fell from the second floor, and of these, 31 were initially diagnosed as having sustained moderate to severe injuries requiring hospital stays. Of them, five were thought to have sustained life-threatening injuries, while two others were in critical condition. This shows that even on lower floors, safety cannot be taken for granted.

    The data further revealed the incidents occurred more often during mild seasons, when people tend to keep their balcony doors open. Sixteen of the falls occurred in May, followed by 11 in September and 10 in October.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's community safety department, which is calling on the public to take preventive measures against accidental falls, outlines three main points for families to prevent falls from occurring:

    This image shows for reference a balcony door securely closed and with an auxiliary lock in place. (Mainichi/Maki Nakajima)

    The most important one is to keep the area around the balcony railing clear of any objects that can be climbed on, such as tables, chairs or planters. The second point is to keep the exterior air conditioning unit and other objects at least 60 centimeters away from the ledge or railing. The last one is to keep the door or windows to the balcony secured with auxiliary locks. These locks may be of the clasping type or use keys, but in any case, the important thing is to attach them out of children's reach.

    Other recommendations include making sure that the balcony railing is designed in such a way that a child cannot put their feet on it, setting up hand rails or ledges at least 110 cm high and with gaps of 11 cm or less between railings, as well as regularly checking rails or ledges for any signs of deterioration.

    A metropolitan government official said, "In addition to checking and improving the balcony area, we want people to make sure that children have supervision. This includes not leaving a child by themselves in a room with a balcony even for a short period of time and never going out while leaving the child alone at home."

    (Japanese original by Maki Nakajima, Digital News Center)

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