Most parents, grandparents and other caregivers of infants and young children are unaware that the laundry room could be the site of an accidental home drowning. Sadly, many parents who would never dream of leaving a child unattended in the bath or poolside do not bother to childproof or restrict unsupervised access to home laundry room facilities. The result is that far too many children succumb to needless death or serious injuries.
Drownings are silent and can occur within minutes. Children that have experienced prolonged submersion, but that do not drown will sustain substantial bodily harm due to severe oxygen depletion.
The physiology of infants and small children make them prone to laundry room drowning accidents. They are top-heavy and lack the upper body strength to pull themselves free should they crawl, climb or fall into a filled washing machine tub, undrained utility sink or other container holding an inch or more of liquid. Liquid filled containers not in use should be promptly emptied.
Five gallon cleaning buckets, frequently, used for various household chores, pose a real hidden threat. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has found that the height, straight sides and weight of these buckets make self extrication for infants and toddlers difficult. Such young children are prone to falling in head first and lack the muscle and motor skills to free themselves. Thus even an inch of water can cause death or injury.
Washing machines, both top loading washing machines and front loading washing machine pose significant drowning hazards. If your washing machine, does not contain a locking mechanism there are safety locks that you can purchase and install at home. Never leave appliance door or lids open. Children, cats and small dogs often find the basins great hiding and sleeping places.
Be certain that there are no climbing opportunities for young children to scale the washing machine. Toddlers and preschoolers are curious and agile creatures. They can quickly boost themselves into or on top of a machine with the help of a laundry basket, hamper, bucket or even a heap of laundry.
Should a child fall into an operating washing machine their risk of drowning or severe injury from respiratory impairment would be compounded by injuries sustained from physical entanglement as the machine cycles.
The best way to avoid these horrible accidents is to supervise infants, toddlers and young children constantly and restrict access to laundry room areas. After maintaining vigilant supervision, such actions as installing child gates, door locks, machine lid locks, removing climbing opportunities and emptying standing water containers can offer additional safety redundancies.
We see far too many YouTube videos of babies and small children in the laundry room “playing house” with the laundry. The videos are adorable to some, but they make us cringe with fear. Laundry should be an activity only for adults and older children.