The internal mechanisms in recliners can pose a hazard if they are not properly secured and covered.
A recliner is an armchair or sofa that can be adjusted into a reclining position with the back of the chair lowered and the footrest extended.
They can be operated manually with a push backwards, a lever at the side of the chair, or with an electric remote or built-in buttons.
This page includes information on:
- risks and injuries
- safety requirements
- your consumer rights
- how to report a safety concern
- advice to be a savvy consumer
Risks and injuries
Never leave young children unsupervised around recliner chairs, the mechanisms are strong and can cause serious harm.
Young children between six months and five years old have been injured and died in accidents involving recliner chairs. These incidents usually occur during unsupervised use or play, on or around a recliner chair.
Recliners can cause:
- head or body entrapment (when a child inserts their head or limbs into a gap that closes when the chair is moved into the upright position)
- finger entrapment and cuts (when fingers are caught in the metal mechanism)
There are no mandatory safety requirements for recliners in Australia, however please take our advice into consideration:
Recliner chairs should not have gaps of 95mm or more, as it presents a risk of head or body entrapment. Chairs supplied for design reasons with gaps of 95mm or more must use methods that eliminate such gaps, such as completely covering any possible gaps with upholstery or using a crossbar that reduces the size of gaps when the chair is in the reclined position.
No finger entrapment hazards
A recliner bracket should not grab a child’s finger or toe with sharp edges or scissor action as the footrest retracts.
No cavity hazards
When the footrest is extended, the recliner should not have a cavity with a depth of 200mm or more.
Safety information included
Consumers should be supplied with safety information in a brochure or swing tags on the chair.
In addition, a permanent warning label should read:
- Do not allow children to play on the chair.
- Always leave the chair in an upright and closed position after use.
- Keep hands and feet clear of the mechanism.
- Only the occupant should operate the chair.
The wording ‘CAUTION’ in the American Furniture Manufacturer’s Association Guideline for recliner chairs is also acceptable.
There are no penalties for not complying with these guidelines, however, NSW Fair Trading can recall recliner chairs or issue a public warning if an injury occurs.
Your consumer rights
As a consumer, you have the right to expect that the goods you buy are safe.
Australian Consumer Law requires safety standards to be met before certain goods are sold. These standards include:
- the way the good is made
- what it contains
- how it works
- the tests it needs to pass
- whether any warnings or instructions need to accompany it.
Individual suppliers who breach Australian Consumer Law can be fined up to $220,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1.1 million.
How to report a product safety concern
IMPORTANT: If a child is injured or you require urgent medical assistance, don’t delay - contact your GP or call 000 immediately.
If you become aware of an unsafe situation or item, whether or not anyone has been injured:
Be a savvy consumer
Buying a recliner
While there are no mandatory safety standards for recliners in Australia, however we recommend you follow our advice:
- Buy a chair that doesn’t have gaps (when in the recline position) of 95mm or more. Chairs with larger gaps risk head or limb entrapment. If the chair does have larger gaps, can they be completely covered by upholstery?
- Does the recliner have protection against finger entrapment? Make sure the mechanism is enclosed and shielded so little hands don’t get caught.
- Is there a cavity hazard when the chair is in the recline position? If there is a space under the chair 200mm or more deep, there is a risk a child can crawl in, get stuck and injure themselves.
- Does the chair include safety information, an instruction manual and warnings? Ask the retailer.
Safety first! Parents and carers should discourage young children from playing on recliner chairs and handling the bracket mechanism.
Browse our Product safety section for more information on a range of product types including baby and children’s products, gas and electrical goods, and other consumer items.
The Product Safety Australia website is managed by the ACCC and has lots of information on product safety and national recalls.
Go to Kidsafe NSW for information to help make your home safe for young children.
Suppliers can find out more about their responsibilities on the selling safe products page.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Call us on 13 32 20 or submit an online enquiry.
Who enforces Australian Consumer Law?
The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- NSW Fair Trading, and
- other State and Territory consumer protection agencies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for financial products and services.