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Washers, Dryers — How Can Children Be at Risk?

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Appliances and Dangers to Children

Of all the places in the home where child accidents occur, the most dangerous and perhaps most unexpected one may be lurking in the laundry room. In fact, so unexpected that most articles on child home safety do not even discuss it!

Tragic tales take place repeatedly in the bathroom, where a toddler can drown in the tub in seconds, or in the kitchen, where hot stoves and boiling pots can burn little hands. Now the laundry room has risen to the top of the list of household safety concerns.

“3-year-old boy died after he became trapped in washing machine, cops say,” reads a headline in the Orlando Sentinel. “Deputies: 2-year-old girl dies after being in dryer in Waycross,” reads another on First Coast News.

In the first incident, the boy became trapped inside a front-loading washing machine and is believed to have died due to lack of oxygen. After the boy was pronounced dead at the hospital, police urged parents to take precautions.

“We also ask that parents speak with their children and teach them that washers, dryers and other appliances are not toys and should not be played with,” Orlando Police Department spokesman Cory Burkarth told the newspaper. “This message also applies to adults / friends / family members who may have children visit their house, babysitters, etc.”

In the second incident, the girl climbed into the drawer at the bottom of the dryer and died from overheating after it shut behind her.

“The Brantley County Sheriff’s Office confirmed with First Coast News that the child died after being in a dryer,” according to the TV station.

The case was turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

“First responders rushed to the home, which is in a trailer park in Waycross, Georgia, but the toddler could not be saved,” parenting Web site wrote in a blog. “Needless to say, her mother…is beside herself with grief, as she was reportedly asleep when the little girl climbed inside the appliance.”

In a third incident, a three-year-old girl nearly lost her life in a front-loading washing machine her parents had installed the day prior. The girl was found inside the machine as it was filling with water and tumbling. She was screaming but could not be heard through the airtight seal. Her mother took to Facebook after the ordeal

“I’ve been hesitant to write this post,” Lindsey McIver started. “First, because of the inevitable online mom-shaming that is bound to ensue; and second, because it’s just really hard to re-live. On Sunday our washing machine broke down. On Monday my husband went to Lowe’s and purchased this new front load washing machine. We thought it was the “new and cool” type of washing machine and didn’t think anything of it. We spent that evening installing it with the kids underfoot. We told them several times they were not to touch it. They all replied “OK.” Early Tuesday morning we were woken up by our four-year-old son who was crying so hard he could barely talk. As I was trying to understand what he was saying, my husband flew out of bed and down the stairs. It was then that the realization hit. He had said: Kloe. Inside. Washer.”

The story was picked up by Good Morning America and People magazine, helping raise awareness about how to prevent such scary scenarios from unfolding.

Consumer Reports magazine said that, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, three have been three washing-machine-related deaths of children age five and younger since 2014. Also, since 2014, injuries related to washing machines landed an approximate 3,000 children age five and younger in the emergency room.

“It’s critical that parents explain to their young children that appliances are not toys, and that they can be dangerous,” the magazine states in an article titled “Keep Young Kids Safe From Front-Load Washing Machine Accidents.” “It’s equally important to point out any potential dangers to anyone watching your children while you’re away. Remember that young kids are at a developmental stage that makes them especially curious.”

Here are tips for keeping children safe in the laundry room:

  • Lock the door to the laundry room, denying entry to anyone without a key.
  • Shut the doors / lids of the washer and dryer.
  • Turn on the electronic lock-out feature designed to prevent children from gaining access.
  • Invest in a safety lock that attaches to the outside of the washer door as it does to cabinets and ovens.
  • Have a master switch wired by an electrician and located out of children’s reach.
  • Keep liquid laundry pods out of sight and reach of children. If fact, with children under 6 years old – don’t use them at all.  
  • Do not allow children to crawl behind washers or dryers; there are too many potential electrocution and suffocation potentials there.

“Colorful bottles of detergent, candy-like individual detergent packets and big loud machines filled with water are a magnet for children and look like a great place to play,” states an article on The Spruce titled  “Washing Machine and Dryer Safety in the Laundry Room.” “Accidents can happen so quickly and most are preventable.”

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