In the 2016 Census, family households represented nearly half of all apartment residents. In Brisbane, the number of high-rise apartments occupied by families with children almost doubled between 2011 and 2016.
As families with children become increasingly prevalent within Australian strata communities it raises additional safety concerns for bodies corporate, parents and the strata community as a whole.
By-laws and rules vary from building to building, with some properties being more child orientated than others. Most strata schemes will have guidelines covering supervision of children in common areas like the car park, pool or garden.
Key areas to address for parents and bodies corporate include driveway and car park safety, balcony safety, window safety and pool safety issues.
Below is our Safety Checklist to ensure the safety of children in strata living:
Car park and driveway safety is important for any strata community but for schemes with children present, bodies corporate and residents must be extra cautious.
Where outdoor space is limited in an apartment complex it can be inviting for children to use the car park or driveway for playing.
We’ve all heard the horrific stories of children being accidentally run over as cars reverse or running out into the pathway of cars without looking. Unfortunately, in strata schemes where there are more cars in close proximity the risks of accidents occurring increases.
To increase the safety of your children in car parks and on driveways, please follow our recommendations below:
• Children should be supervised when playing outdoors or on common areas and especially in driveways and/or carparks
• Some activities such as skateboarding, and scootering may be restricted around the building or complex: Check by-laws and know what is and is not permitted
• Always check rear mirrors when reversing from driveways and car parks
• Check speed limits and do no speed in or around the building or complex
The risk of children falling from height is a particularly serious one in strata complexes due to the high-rise nature of many buildings. Parents in strata schemes should follow some simple safety steps and be aware of the risks that balconies can pose to younger children.
Safety precautions may become especially important in the warmer months as people are more inclined to leave balcony doors open to catch the breeze.
To increase the safety for your children on balconies, please follow our recommendations below:
• Ensure balcony doors are closed, locked and inaccessible to children.
• Never leave children unattended on a balcony.
• Remove all climbable objects from the edge of balcony i.e. pot plants, tables, chairs.
• Be aware of furniture that is light enough for children to drag to the balcony edge.
• Your balustrade should have no horizontal or near horizontal parts that would allow children to climb.
• Report any maintenance concerns as soon as possible.
Unsupervised or unsecured windows and balconies are dangerous to children.
According to the child safety organisation Kidsafe, about 50 children fall out of windows and off balconies every year in Australia.
With so many families choosing to live in apartments utilising proper window safety strategies to prevent falls is essential for safety in strata schemes beyond just complying with legislative requirements.
Children aged from one to five years are most at risk as they are naturally curious but lack the ability to recognise danger.
To increase the safety of children near windows, please follow our recommendations below:
• Ensure windows have latches or locks fitted to stop them from being opened beyond a certain width
• Install security screens- do no rely on fly-screens to prevent falls
• Keep furniture away from windows
• Remove moveable furniture from children’s bedrooms
If you’re not sure what safety device to use, contact a qualified window safety expert.
Pools can pose a serious risk to small children if they are not correctly fenced, secured and locked.
Bodies corporate have a number of obligations to fulfill if they have a shared pool. Pools must be registered with the relevant state or local council body, the fences must meet legislative requirements and CPR signs should be located in close proximity to the pool.
Children can also drown in small bodies of water such as ponds and water features. These should have barriers to prevent children from accessing the water and accidentally falling in.
To increase the safety of your children in and around pool areas in addition to following legislative regulations, please follow our recommendations below:
• Never allow children in the pool area unsupervised.
• Children using the pool should be aware of rules and regulations for your building or complex.
• Ensure pools adhere to all regulations and are correctly fenced, secured and locked in accordance with legislative requirements
• Ensure the pool is regularly checked by an expert and the fence, lock and latch are in good condition
• Remove objects and foliage that could be used for children to access the pool area
• Ensure outdoor furniture is secured to prevent children moving them to access the pool area
• Ensure pools have displayed a CPR sign by the Australian Resuscitation Council within eyesight
• Learn how to resuscitate
• Ensure the pool safety certificate is displayed and is valid
• Any ponds or water features should have barriers to prevent children from falling in.
Child Safety is a Group Effort
Children in strata schemes can pose unique or additional safety challenges that both parents and the body corporate management team need to be aware of and work together to manage.
Improving child safety in strata schemes is a group effort and members of a strata community should always work together to ensure the best outcomes for child safety in their scheme.
Parents may be able to identify risks which the building manager, body corporate manager and committee may overlook. The body corporate management team cannot do anything about risks if they are unaware of them.
If you have a safety risk to report, please contact your body corporate manager or building manager.
This content is intended to be used for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be personal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is always recommended to seek advice from your body corporate manager or relevant industry professional.