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Australasia has had a small but distressing number of cases of child death associated with prams that are raising questions about design and resulting in changes in manufacture and standards.
The first and most important point to note is that child death associated with prams is relatively rare. The most common form of injury is a fall, usually associated with not using the safety harness (or less frequently, problems with the way the harness is used); loss of control on steps or escalators; tip-overs caused by overloading with shopping; collapse of the product because of poor locking; tip-overs caused by inadequate brakes or brake failure; and inadequate supervision.
With simple precautions prams and strollers are, generally speaking, robust and safe products.
In a number of cases babies died in prams when it appears they were able to move backwards exposing some design features that placed them at risk. In some cases the baby moved into a pocket of material, in the latest case the movement caused the pram to tip over, trapping the baby.
The latter case occurred in Melbourne in October 1997 and involved a 7 month old baby on a visit to her grandparent's home. The baby was fed and put down in a pramette in a quiet room. After two hours the mother passed the door and saw that the pram had tipped over on its end, only the baby's legs could be seen and she could not be revived. A coroner found that the harness in the pram was not used and that a flap at the head of the pramette was probably undone or loose enabling the baby to move far enough to tip the pram over. The pram was bought new two and half years before (for an older child) and conformed to the Australian Standard, with a harness and an instruction booklet warning that the harness should be used, that the harness should be firmly fitted, and that children should not be left unattended.
The coroner found that the baby would not have died if the harness had been used and the flap at the back of the pramette had been done up. Among other things the coroner recommended that: all manufacturers, importers, and retailers be advised of the details of this case and the findings; the Australian Standard be made mandatory; and that the stability tests in the standard be reviewed.
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