Submission: Children and window safety consultation

The TU consulted with the Children’s Hospital at Westmead during the development of its report, and has promoted its recommendations as a priority for law reform. We welcome the NSW Government’s commitment to act on the recommendations.

We generally support the proposals in the consultation paper to:

  • make mandatory the installation of window safety devices in strata schemes by the scheme’s owners corporation;
  • specify a threshold for application, being windows in rooms with an interior floor more than two metres above the exterior ground;
  • specify the performance standards for window safety devices set out in the consultation paper;
  • allow a unit owner to install window safety devices where the owners corporation has failed to do so; and
  • include an item about window safety devices in the condition reports attached to residential tenancy agreements.

We qualify our support, however, in two respects.

First, we submit that the mandatory installation of window safety devices should apply not only to buildings in strata schemes, but to other residential buildings too. The same danger is posed by windows in apartment buildings that are owned on one title (for example, by a private landlord, or a social housing provider), or that are owned on company title; or by windows in individual dwellings with multiple storeys. None of these buildings would be subject to the reforms proposed in the consultation paper, notwithstanding that they may contain unsafe windows in rooms with a floor more than two metres above the ground.

We submit that amendments mirroring those proposed in the consultation paper for strata legislation should also be made to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) to apply to all residential buildings, in the manner of the successful smoke alarm reforms.

Recommendation

Also amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) to apply the reforms to all residential buildings.

Second, we submit that the proposed timeframe for mandatory installation of window safety devices – five years – is too long. At the present rate of incidents, almost 200 children would suffer injuries from falls from windows over that period. It is our view that many owners corporations may not attend to the installation of window safety devices until immediately before, or after, the requirement takes effect. We submit that a timeframe of two years is more appropriate, considering the seriousness of the harm to which the reforms are addressed.

Recommendation

Provide for a two-year timeframe for implementation of the reforms.