Strata complexes are often promoted as being the perfect living arrangement for young professionals wanting to live close to the city or for retiring Australians looking to downsize. But this focus ignores a large portion of the population who also live in strata schemes – families with children.
Many families choose to live in strata for the same reason as the other demographics – convenience to city features, less time required for maintenance, or they’re trying to get a foot on the property ladder. Some may simply be priced out of houses altogether.
Whatever the reason, many families with children are present in strata schemes, and this poses a unique set of safety problems of which the strata community – both parents and the body corporate management team – need to be aware.
We’ve all heard of the terrible situations where parents, reversing down their driveway, accidentally hit a child who they couldn’t see. Imagine how much that risk is increased in strata complexes where there are large car parks with a number of vehicles, all entering and leaving at different times.
Where outdoor space is limited in an apartment complex, it can also be tempting for children to use of the car park for entertainment purposes, such as bike riding and skating. However, it has to be kept in mind that these car parks are not a substitute for a backyard in which to let kids run wild.
Most strata schemes will have by-laws forbidding children from playing unsupervised on common property within and outside the building. The aim of these laws is to minimize harm to children, particularly in risky areas such as driveways and car parks, and the laws should be enforced and respected.
Between 2011 and 2012, 39 children aged nine or under were hospitalised as a result of window falls.
The risk of children falling from height is a particularly serious one in strata complexes due to the high rise nature of many buildings, and the fact that furniture is often pushed up under windows in smaller apartments.
This risk was recognised by the NSW Parliament who late last year passed safety laws regarding installing window safety devices. New residential strata premises must be built with the devices in place, and older buildings have until 13 March 2018 to have them retrofitted. The safety devices will prevent the windows from opening more than 12.5 centimetres when locked – the approximate width of a baby’s head.
If there are a number of children in your strata scheme, consider being proactive and beating the deadline. If your strata complex is not in NSW, the safety devices may be something you wish to discuss with your community. Parents – approach your committee and strata manager to organise getting the safety devices installed. For building management – a building-wide approach will ensure consistency, may be more cost effective, and can be a selling point for your complex.
Australians love being near the water; we prefer living next to the beach, having a pool in the backyard, or including a pond in the landscaping. However, we pay a price for our love of water, with drowning being one of the leading causes of death in young children in Australia.
For this reason, 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.
Most times these obvious risks and legislative requirements are addressed. However, what can go unnoticed is what is placed beside the fence. Pot plants, trellis, out door furniture or rocks can provide a means for unsupervised children to easily get over the fences – even when the fences meet legislative requirements.
When it comes to garden features such as ponds, setting up a small barrier which prevents younger and more vulnerable children from accidentally falling in may avert tragedy. Also, keep the ponds shallow, to minimise the risk they present.
Improving child safety in strata schemes is a cooperative game. Parents of small children in strata complexes may be able to identify risks which the RUM, strata manager and committee are not able to. The body corporate management team cannot do anything about these less obvious risks if they are unaware of them. Members of the strata community should work together to ensure strata remains a safe place for kids to live. With the number of families living in strata expected to rise, it is important we get this right.
Is your strata complex safe for children?
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