Recliner chairs

Young children between the ages of six months and five years have died and been injured in accidents involving recliner chairs. These injuries or deaths have usually occurred during unsupervised use or play, on or around a recliner chair. These guidelines apply to all new and second–hand recliner chairs sold in NSW. There are no penalties for non–compliance, however, NSW Fair Trading can recall recliner chairs or issue a public warning if an injury occurs.

Hazards

Head and body entrapment

Depending on the design of the recliner chair, there might be an open gap created between the front edge of the chair and the edge of the footrest when the footrest is extended. A child can insert their head or body into this gap and possibly suffocate when the recliner closes. We recommend that there should be no gap between the edge of the seat and the edge of the footrest, using upholstery to completely cover possible gaps. If for design reasons there has to be a gap, it should not exceed 95mm.

Finger entrapment

Getting a child’s fingers caught in a recliner chair is more likely to occur where the metal bracket mechanism that supports the footrest has a sharp–angled edge. The scissor action of the mechanism can grab and trap fingers or toes as the footrest retracts. If the footrest is retracted with sufficient speed it can severely damage a child’s finger or even cut their finger off.

Cavities

If there is a large cavity with a depth of 200mm or more under the seat when the footrest is extended, a young child could crawl into the cavity and possibly get seriously hurt if the footrest is accidentally closed.

Requirements for new recliner chairs

Manufacturers and suppliers should make and sell chairs according to the following four guidelines.

1. Without gaps

Recliner chairs should not have gaps of 95mm or more as this would present a risk of head or body entrapment. Gaps can be tested using a 95mm spherical probe at a push force of 5kg applied to the probe to push it through the gap as set out in the Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2172:1:2003 Cots for household use – Safety requirements. Purchase copies of AS/NZS 2172:1:2003 from the SAI Global website or by calling 13 12 42.

The chair would not trap a child's head if it has a mechanism to prevent accidental collapse of the footrest.

The footrest is considered to accidentally collapse if it collapses when it is opened, locked and then unlocked from each partly open and fully opened lockable position, a total of 1,000 times and a force of 60kg is applied to the centre of the footrest. Footrests that have gaps of more than 95mm but have a mechanism to prevent accidental collapse of the footrest are considered to have passed the head or body gap requirements of the guideline.

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.

2. Without finger entrapment hazards

A recliner bracket should not grab a child’s finger or toe due to sharp edges or scissor action as the footrest retracts. This can be tested by placing a 7mm diameter HB pencil at an acute angle at the midpoint on the side of the bracket mechanism and quickly retracting the footrest.

If the pencil snaps, or is significantly marked, the bracket mechanism could cause serious injury. As a minimum requirement and where possible, fit plastic guards to both sides of the mechanism to limit access.

3. Without cavity hazards

The recliner chair should not have a cavity with a depth of 200mm or more that occurs under the seat when the footrest is extended. Both diagrams below show recliners that do not have a mechanism to prevent inadvertent collapse of the footrest.

Diagram A (with mid-bar fitted) shows dimensional limits and the position of a mid–bar.

Diagram A image showing dimensional limits and position

Diagram B (without mid–bar fitted)

Diagram B showing dimensional limits without a mid-bar

4. Supply safety information

You 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.

Second-hand recliner chairs

Suppliers of repaired or upholstered recliner chairs should:

  • remove head entrapment gaps of 95mm or more - this could include completely covering any possible gaps with upholstery or using a crossbar that reduces the size of open gaps below 95mm when the chair is in the reclined position.
  • minimise finger entrapment hazards by fitting guards to both sides of the bracket mechanism to limit access, where possible
  • ensure a safety warning label is attached to the recliner.

Advice to parents and carers

Parents and carers should:

  • only purchase new recliner chairs that comply with the above requirements
  • read and follow safety advice in an information brochure or on a warning label
  • discourage young children, particularly those under five, from playing on recliner chairs and handling the bracket mechanism.

If you become aware of an unsafe situation or item, whether or not anyone has been injured, you should alert the supplier about the issue. You can also report it by lodging a complaint on our website or via the Product Safety Australia website.

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