Overview of Baby Safety Gates Standards:
Among baby safety products we feature here at Motherhood HQ are safety gates and it is important to understand how they improve your baby’s safety and specifically what features determine or can be used to determine their effectiveness as safety products. We previously discussed the safety features of car seats here.
This guide takes you through the most important baby gate safety features and their importance in enhancing your child’s security.
Let’s start with some background on baby safety regulations.
Baby Gates Regulations:
Before the enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not have specific standards for baby gates. However, with the passage of the CPSIA in 2008, the Commission adopted voluntary standards developed by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) in collaboration with the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). These standards focus on various aspects such as the size of openings, height, vertical strength, bottom spacing, configuration of the uppermost edge, and label warnings. It is worth noting that the United States does not currently have mandatory federal child safety gate standards, except for regulations regarding the toxicity of materials, small parts, and sharp edges or points.
On the Federal Register website, you can now find details of the adopted safety standards for gates and enclosures
European regulations for baby gates surpass those in the US in terms of advancement. These regulations cover a wide range of safety aspects, including but not limited to dangerous gaps or openings, narrower slat spacing, prevention of toe or finger holds, and avoidance of top-edge protrusions. To meet the standards, a gate must endure a push/pull test with a force of 31.5 lbs. for 10,000 cycles without being dislodged or damaged. Additionally, it must withstand an impact simulating a 2-year-old child running into the gate at a speed of 3 m.p.h. without being dislodged or destroyed.
Baby Gates Safety Standards Adopted by CPSC
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) paved way for the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (Commission or CPSC) to develop a safety standard for gates and enclosures in response to the direction under Section 104(b) of the CPSIA.
This guide includes the standards proposed by CPSC and other reputable voluntary standards such as ASTM (ASTM F1004).
The ASTM F1004-19 Standards address baby gates specifically focussing on these parts’
- Wood parts;
- Sharp edges or points;
- Small parts;
- Exposed coil springs;
- Scissoring, shearing, and pinching;
- Lead in paint; and
- Protective components.
ASTM F1004–19 Standards reviewed by CPSC meet the following European and Canadian Standards;
- The European Standard, EN 1930:2011/A1, Child use and care articles—Safety barriers—Safety requirements and test methods (EN standard); and
- The Canadian regulation, SOR/2016–179, Expansion Gates and Expandable Enclosures Regulations (SOR standard).
Why these standards are important:
While baby gates are effective at baring your little one from accessing areas that may pose danger for them, there have been cases of baby gate accidents. These standards ensure that manufacturers produce quality and safe products that minimize such cases.
The standards also provide guidelines to installers or users of these products. Some accidents have been caused by improper installation, hence the need for clear instructions on how to do so.
Some stats on Baby Gates injuries and product recalls
To underscore the gravity of these incidents, it is worth noting that between January 1, 2008, and October 31, 2018, a total of 19 fatalities occurred. Out of these, 17 deaths were attributed to the use of a gate, while two were linked to an enclosure. Of the 19 individuals who tragically lost their lives, 15 perished due to drowning. Specifically, 13 drownings occurred in backyard pools, one in a backyard hot tub, and one in a 5-gallon bucket of water inside the house.
Based on the 2012-2014 data from the CPSC Nursery Product Reports, it was found that an average of one child per year loses their life due to gate-related injuries. In 2016, approximately 2,900 injuries requiring emergency room treatment were related to gates, showing an increase from the 2,500 gate-related injuries reported in 2015. Notably, in 2016, IKEA had to recall 80,000 units of their Patrull safety gate following 55 incidents reported globally.
This goes to show that despite safety standards and guidelines, accidents do happen. It is therefore essential to always prioritize safety when it comes to baby gates by following the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer.
10 Baby Gates Safety Standards
Baby gates come equipped with various features aimed at keeping your little one safe. Some of these are built-in while others can be added to an existing gate. It is essential to understand each feature and how it contributes towards ensuring your child’s safety.
One of the key aspects highlighted in the ASTM F1004 Standard is the gate height. According to the standard, the vertical distance from the floor to the lowest point of the uppermost surface should not be less than 22 inches when measured from the floor. This requirement aims to prevent individuals from leaning over and accidentally tumbling over the gate.
Although the minimum recommended height, keep in mind that your baby may grow rapidly and require adjustments. It is best to use a baby gate that matches your baby’s height and monitor this during their initial 2 to 3 years, as it may not be necessary afterward.
Openings within gates or enclosures, as well as bounded openings between the gate and the test fixture, must not allow the small torso probe to pass completely when applied with a 25-pound force.
The ASTM F1004 Standard also outlines requirements for openings in baby gates. The standard states that the size of any opening should not allow a rigid sphere to pass through it when applied with a 25-pound force. This requirement aims to prevent incidents where children get their heads trapped after squeezing into gaps between soft or flexible gate components and the surrounding structure, such as door frames or walls.
The next standard focuses on gate strength, specifically aimed at preventing gate collapse when a downward force is applied. After applying a 45-pound downward force, gates and enclosures must not fracture, disengage, fold, or deflect below 22 inches from the ground. Gates are subjected to a vertical test force of 45 pounds applied to the midpoint of the horizontal top rail, surface, or edge. Enclosures are tested by applying the 45-pound force to every other uppermost rail, surface, or edge, as well as every other top joint. This ensures that gates and enclosures can withstand the intended occupants, even when children hang or climb on them.
The gap between the floor and the lower edge of an enclosure or gate must not allow the small torso probe to pass through completely when a 25-pound force is applied. This rule aims to prevent incidents where children have become trapped with their heads after squeezing into the gaps between the gate and the floor, entering feet first.
Uppermost edge configurations
Openings located at the uppermost edge of a gate or enclosure, which are partially bounded, must not allow simultaneous contact between opposite surfaces of a specific test template. The template is designed to screen out non-hazardous openings with angles that are either too narrow to accommodate a small user’s neck or too wide to trap a large user’s head. This requirement aims to address incidents of head/neck entrapment commonly observed in older, “accordion style” gates with “V” shaped openings.
Latching/locking and hinge mechanisms:
To assess hardware durability, the egress panels on gates and enclosures must undergo 2,000 cycles of fully opening and closing. For pressure gates without egress panels, the installation and removal process is repeated 550 times. The 2,000-cycle test ensures the longevity of gates or enclosures equipped with egress panels, which are expected to be operated twice a day throughout the product’s lifespan. Pressure gates without egress panels, on the other hand, are designed for less frequent access and undergo a reduced 550-cycle test. This pre-conditioning test aims to address any potential issues related to latch, hinge, and hardware failures.
To simplify this, consider the following example: Imagine you’re carrying a heavy load and walking through an area with strong winds. If the gate or enclosure’s latching/locking mechanism is not durable enough, it may easily blow open, causing a safety hazard for children.
Automatic closing system:
Following the cyclic preconditioning test, an egress panel, which is advertised to have an automatic closing feature, must consistently and automatically close when opened to a width of 8 inches and at its maximum opening width. This requirement ensures the gate functions as expected, reducing the risk of occupants accessing potentially hazardous conditions on the other side of an unintentionally unsecured gate.
To simplify this, consider the following example: You’re in a rush to attend to something and forget to close the gate or enclosure behind you. With an automatic closing system, the gate will close on its own after you pass through, ensuring that your child is not left unattended and exposed to potential hazards.
Push-out force strength:
This test involves five specified locations: the four corners of the gate and the center. At each location, a horizontal push-out force is applied five times. The maximum force before the gate pushes out of the test fixture is recorded and averaged for each location, with a maximum of 45 lb. This force level represents the weight of the largest intended occupant, ensuring realistic simulation. To ensure safety, the average push-out force must exceed 30 lb at all five locations, with each individual force exceeding 20 lb. This requirement aims to prevent the gate from being dislodged by the intended occupant, thus protecting them from accessing hazardous areas.
To simplify this, consider the following example: Imagine your child is playing near the gate and accidentally leans or pushes on it with considerable force. With a push-out force strength of over 30 lb, the gate will remain in place, preventing your child from accessing potential hazards.
Locking devices must meet one of two conditions: (1) If the lock is a single-action latching device, the release mechanism must require a minimum force of 10 lb to activate and open the gate. Alternatively, (2) the lock must have a double-action release mechanism. This requirement aims to prevent the gate’s intended occupant from being able to operate the locking mechanism and becoming trapped.
To simplify this, consider the following example: Imagine your child is playing near the gate and accidentally unlocks it. With a minimum force requirement of 10 lb to activate the release mechanism, your child will not be able to open the gate and become trapped.
This test ensures that the vertical members (slats) made of wood or metal do not completely break or detach from either end of the gate or enclosure when a horizontal force of 45 pounds is applied. The test is performed on 25 percent of the gate slats, excluding the adjacent ones. This requirement aims to verify that gates and enclosures maintain their structural integrity when children push or pull on the slats.
To explain this simply, imagine your child is playing near the gate and accidentally kicks or pulls on one of the slats with a force of 45 pounds. With this safety feature in place, the slat will not break or detach, preventing your child from falling or getting trapped.
The Commission noted that 25% of incidences involved slats that ‘broke or detached from gates or enclosures, resulting in contusions and lacerations.’
Potential Injuries/Hazards Associated with Baby Gates:
The CPSC review revealed that hardware-related injuries accounted to 37% of incidents. Gates hardware such as broken hinges, locks, latches and mounting brackets can lead to severe injuries.
To ensure safety, gates should have securely fixed hardware that does not loosen or break easily. Additionally, finger and hand pinch points should be eliminated to prevent potential injuries.
Baby gates are installed in areas where there is a risk of falling, such as stairs and elevated surfaces. It is essential to secure the gate properly and ensure that it is not easily dislodged by a child’s weight or force. Gates with sturdy and secure mounting hardware, as well as a strong frame, can prevent falls and injuries. In 2009, Dorel Juvenile Group announced that it was voluntarily recalling 100,000 units of Safety 1st SmartLight Stair Gates after it identified a hazard that it described as;
The hinges that hold the stair gate in place can break, posing a fall hazard to children if the gate is placed at the top of the stairs. Safety1st Website
Slats in gates should be closely spaced to prevent small children from slipping through them. Safety gate slats should be vertical slats or bars less than 3 inches apart to prevent head entrapment. This feature also helps avoid tripping accidents, which account for 12% of injuries related to baby gates.
Additionally, the gate’s bottom bar should be positioned flush with the floor or have a minimal threshold to prevent tripping hazards. Gates with expandable panels must have a secure locking mechanism in place to prevent them from unintentionally collapsing.
Baby gates without trip hazard are designed with a barrier that can be placed flat on the floor to eliminate tripping hazards. They also have a one-hand release mechanism, allowing adults to pass through quickly without having to lift or step over the gate.
Hand and finger injuries:
Baby gates should not only protect children from falls but also prevent accidents caused by pinched fingers or hands. Gates with automatic closing mechanisms are designed to prevent fingers from getting caught in the opening or closing mechanism. Additionally, gates with vertical slats and smooth edges minimize the risk of hand injuries.
Clear instructions and proper installation:
Most baby gates come with detailed instructions for proper assembly and installation. It is essential to follow these instructions carefully to ensure that the gate is securely mounted and will not pose a hazard to children. Gates should also be checked regularly for any signs of damage or wear and tear, and replaced if necessary.
Baby gates that are not installed correctly or do not have proper mounting hardware can collapse under a child’s weight, causing severe injuries. It is crucial to choose gates that come with quality mounting hardware and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. Gates should also be regularly checked for any signs of instability or weakness.
Sharp edges and corners:
Some baby gates have sharp edges or corners that can pose a risk of injury to children. To prevent this, look for gates with rounded edges or add padding to the corners for added protection.
Children are known for being curious and can easily try to climb over baby gates. To avoid this, make sure the gate is tall enough so that children cannot climb over it. Some gates also have angled or curved tops to prevent climbing.
Some older models of baby gates may have openings or spaces that can trap a child’s head or neck, causing strangulation. It is essential to choose gates with closely spaced vertical slats and no horizontal bars or large gaps to prevent entrapment hazards.
Wrong positioning – on top of stairs:
Installing a baby gate at the top of stairs is vital for preventing falls and injuries. However, some gates are not designed for this purpose and can easily be pushed or kicked out of place by a child. It is crucial to choose gates specifically made for use on stairs and install them securely with the appropriate hardware.
Many baby gates come equipped with safety latches or locks to prevent children from opening them. It is essential to ensure that these latches are childproof and cannot be easily opened by a curious little one.
Mesh vs. solid gates:
When choosing a baby gate, consider whether you need a mesh or solid gate. Solid gates may provide more stability and protection against climbing, but mesh gates can be safer for preventing entrapment hazards.
Pressure-mounted vs. hardware-mounted:
Baby gates can be either pressure-mounted or hardware-mounted. Pressure-mounted gates are installed by applying pressure to two opposing sides, while hardware-mounted gates are screwed into the wall for a more secure fit. Hardware-mounted gates are recommended for use at the top of stairs, as they provide a stronger barrier against falls.
pressure-mounted are ideal for use in doorways or low-risk areas where a child is not likely to fall. It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use, as improper installation can make even the sturdiest gate unsafe.
Importance of regular maintenance:
Once installed, it is essential to regularly check and maintain your baby gates. Over time, screws may become loose or latches may wear out, making the gate less secure. It is crucial to regularly inspect and tighten any loose parts, replace worn-out latches or locks, and ensure that the gate is still functioning properly.
Additional safety measures:
While baby gates are an essential safety feature for young children, they should not be relied upon as the sole means of protection. Parental supervision is still necessary, and additional safety measures such as cabinet locks, outlet covers, and furniture anchors should also be used. It is also crucial to teach children about gate safety and the dangers of climbing or playing near gates.
The Importance of Proper Installation as a Standard
Among the safety gates standards is a standard on warning, labeling and instructions on gate installation. Manufacturers are required to provide necessary information on how to properly install and use the gate. This information includes, but is not limited to, age restrictions, proper placement of the gate, and how to secure it in place.
Below are the highlights of this Standard;
- All gates and enclosures must feature prominent warnings regarding the potential for serious injury or even fatality if the product is not properly installed. It is imperative to caution consumers against using the gate with a child who possesses the ability to climb over or dislodge it, as well as to discourage using the gate to restrict access to a pool.
- Pressure-mounted gates with a single-action locking mechanism should include the following important warning: Install the gate with this side facing away from the child.
- Enclosures equipped with locking or latching mechanisms should display the following warnings: “For proper usage, ensure the [locking/latching] mechanism is securely engaged.”
- Gates that fail the push-out test must have the following warning on the product: It is crucial to install [wall cups] to secure the gate. Without [wall cups], a child can easily push it open and escape.
Here are some reasons why proper installation is crucial for baby gates:
- Stability: Baby gates need to be securely attached to the wall or doorway to prevent them from toppling over when a child leans on them. A gate that is not stable enough can cause serious injuries if it falls on a child.
- Adequate Height: The height of a baby gate should be at least three-quarters of the child’s height to prevent them from climbing over it. Improper installation can result in a gate that is too low, making it easy for children to climb over.
- Correct Placement: Baby gates should be installed at the top and bottom of staircases to prevent falls. If placed in the wrong location, they may not serve their purpose effectively.
- Proper Latch: The latch on a baby gate should be easy for adults to open but difficult for children to figure out. Improper installation can result in a faulty latch, which could lead to the gate being opened by a child.
- No Gaps: There should be no gaps between the baby gate and the wall or doorway as they can present entrapment hazards. Proper installation ensures that there are no gaps that can trap a child’s fingers or head.
By following the manufacturer’s instructions and properly installing baby gates, you can ensure their effectiveness in keeping your child safe. Remember to regularly check for any loose screws or other signs of wear and tear and immediately address them to maintain the safety of your child.
Baby gates are an essential safety feature for young children, providing a barrier against potential hazards in the home. When choosing a baby gate, consider the location and purpose of the gate, as well as the different types available. Proper installation, regular maintenance, and additional safety measures are all crucial factors in ensuring that baby gates effectively serve their purpose in protecting your child from potential harm.
Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and supervise children when near baby gates for maximum safety. So, it is important to understand the features of baby gates and their proper use to ensure the safety of your child. By following these guidelines, you can create a safe environment for your child to explore and grow without worrying about potential hazards in your home. So, always prioritize safety when it comes to choosing and using baby gates. After all, nothing is more important than the well-being of our little ones. Keep these safety features in mind and enjoy peace of mind knowing that your child is safe and protected with the help of a reliable baby gate.
Other helpful resources:
- Safety Standard for Gates and Enclosures
- Choosing Safe Baby Products: Gates (for Parents)
- Gates and Enclosures Business Guidance and Small Entity Compliance Guide
- Best Safety Gate Buying Guide – Consumer Reports
- About the Author
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Sandra W. Bullock is a grand-mom to two boys and is part of the review board here at Motherhoodhq.com. She is responsible for the quality control of content and is among our most experienced moms. She has over 20 years of writing parenting content online focussing on baby safety indoors and outdoors. She has written widely on babyproofing nurseries and homes for infants and toddlers and published work on privacy and the safety of baby monitors. She is a renowned advocate for non-wifi baby monitors that cannot be hacked and spends a lot of time educating parents on how to secure their homes – including ways to secure the baby from harm in and around homes. Sandra is a native of Atlanta where she also works. She can be reached using her email, Sandra.w(at)motherhoodhq.com