The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) has received reports of numerous suffocation
deaths involving children who crawled inside latch type
freezers, clothes dryers, combination washer/dryer
units, picnic coolers, ice boxes in campers, and old-style latch type refrigerators. Most of the victims were
four to seven years old. In all cases, the doors could
not be easily pushed open from the inside. In some of
the incidents associated with clothes dryers, the appliance was accidentally turned on while the child was
Frequently, the children were playing "hide-and-seek"
and the appliance or chest provided a deceptively
good place to hide. When the door slammed shut, the
tight fitting gasket on most of the appliances cut off air
to the child. This, along with the insulated construction
of the appliance, also prevented the child's screams
from being heard. But abandoned appliances are not
the only items involved with accidents like these.
Entrapment deaths have been reported in products in
use or stored in the kitchen, laundry room, basement,
or garage. Deaths also have occurred in ice boxes
located in campers parked outside the home.
For the past forty years, the Federal Refrigerator
Safety Act has required that refrigerators be capable of
being opened from the inside. Since then, manufacturers of various other appliances have voluntarily
redesigned their products to provide safety doors or
interlock devices that help prevent entrapment accidents. However, there are still some appliances in the
home that do not have these safety features.
The CPSC recommends that you identify appliances
or ice chests in your house, garage or recreational vehicles, which may present an entrapment hazard,
- Childproof old-style refrigerators and other appliances which are to be discarded or are in storage.
The surest method is to take off the door completely and in most cases this is a simple process
using a screwdriver. (It is unlawful in many local
jurisdictions to discard old refrigerators without first
removing the door.) If the door will not come off,
remove or disable the latch completely so the door
will no longer lock when closed. A third alternative
is to fasten the door shut so it cannot be opened.
(A chain and padlock can be used if the chain can
be secured through the handles so it will not slide
off. Strong filament tape wrapped around the appliance several times may be used temporarily.
However, tape may deteriorate over time and need
- Keep children away from old-style refrigerators,
freezers, dryers or coolers still in use. Lock the
door to your utility room and warn children not to
play inside these appliances.
- If a child is missing, these appliances and picnic
coolers should be among the first places checked.
A few minutes may save the child's life.
To report an unsafe product or a product related injury,
consumers may call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission's tollfree hotline number, 1-800-638-2772. The teletypewriter number for the hearing
impaired is 1-800-638-8270.