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Gates and Barriers

Often the most effective method of isolating a toddler from danger is to create an exclusion zone by installing a gate or barrier. There are many sizes and configurations available from retail stores and it is advisable to carry out some basic research in regards to product quality and ease of installation before making your selection.

You should also carefully consider where you locate gates. Often the most obvious position will be a hindrance to general traffic. A gate located at the top of a stair might be better positioned further down a passage way creating an exclusion zone for the toddler but also allowing access to other rooms.

Care should be taken locating gates with a ‘bottom rail’ to the top of stairs. The bottom rail is a significant tripping hazard and injuries can be serious if a fall occurs down stairs particularly when a toddler is being carried.

Homesafekids recommends using a modular system that will allow the gate to be offset about 1½ stair widths back from the top stair. This will allow the gate to be negotiated and closed before starting the decent.


A common enquiry is whether to gate off the kitchen or install a series of cupboard and drawer latches. As the kitchen is the usually the most dangerous room in the home HomesafeKids recommends a combination.

Gating the kitchen provides a safe work environment and protects against falling accidents caused by the toddler walking or crawling behind an unsuspecting parent concentrating on the cooking. But the reality is there are too many other dangers in the kitchen that should not be left unsecured even with a gate in place.

Detergents and chemicals usually stored under the sink, plastic bags, drawers with knives and serrations, cupboards with glass or ceramic objects, accessible ovens and cook tops all pose a hazard to an adventurous toddler.

Pressure Gates

The simplest method of installing a barrier is to purchase a pressure gate. These are available in a number of configurations and most have modular extensions to accommodate almost any width.

However before making your purchase familiarize yourself with the environment you are installing the gate to. A range of issues can adversely affect installation:

  • Check that the two surfaces are stable. Considerable pressure must be applied for these gates to succeed. A loose stair newel post or a fragile plaster wall may not support the gate.
  • An oversized skirting will foul the bottom fixing pads. This will render the gate ‘too large’ so be sure to measure all distances before making your purchase.  Spacer blocks will accommodate a gate that is narrow but one that is too large simply cannot be installed
  • An undercut as you may expect on a kitchen bench will render the bottom fixing useless and spacer blocks will be required. Ensure spacer blocks are large, flat and adequately grip the substrate.
  • Rubber pads on a pressure gate will remove paint from a plaster wall. Pressure gates are often purchase because of a perception they are damage free however in order to grip they have to be ‘sticky’ and often will remove a disc of surface paint and perhaps plaster.
  • Read all instructions before installing. Gates attached to the top of stairs must be restrained using a fixing device. Retaining discs are supplied with the gate and are expected to be screwed into the substrate. There are acceptable methods of restraining a gate without using screws.

Self Closing Gates

These are spring hinged with a self latching mechanism. In principle, self closing gates are fine however it is critical that they are precisely installed and routinely checked to ensure the latching mechanism remains tuned.

It is important to think through the intended use of the gated area. If the toddler is not exposed to the hazard frequently it may be more convenient to use a manually latching gate.

Example 1:                  Although the kitchen is the most dangerous and frequently used room in the house, mothers will often use the toddler’s sleep time to prepare meals. During these times a self closing gate can be a nuisance.

Example 2:                  For most 2 storey homes, the bedrooms will be located upstairs and gates will be required at both ends of the stair. In this instance only one of the gates is ever required to be closed.

Self closing gates however are advisable where there are older children who may not be as vigilant in closing a gate as their parents. In this instance the gates need to be checked daily to ensure they close effectively and the automatic latching mechanism activates.

Gates with No Bottom Rail

Some gates are available without a bottom rail and these provide excellent resolution to ‘top of stair’ situations, however it is critical that the attachment points on both sides are solid with no movement and can be securely fastened into. These gates are generally more aesthetically pleasing and are often installed to protect the integrity of an interior.

They can however be more difficult to orientate, particularly the ‘roller blind’ variety as their lack of rigidity can render opening and closing somewhat of an ordeal.

These gates require more considered installation as they tend to be exclusive of adjustment. Both sides must be perpendicular and the ‘receiver brackets’ perfectly aligned.

Modular Gates and Fences

Dangerous environments are often left unprotected simply because parents are unaware of products that can configure around corners or attach to surfaces that may not align. Modular gates and fences are ideal for creating child safety or exclusion zones and can be used to successfully isolate open or unconventional kitchens.

If the span is to exceed 3 or 4 modules it is important to allow for a kink or bend in the unit to attain maximum rigidity.

Attaching to Precious Surfaces

HomesafeKids has developed procedures for attaching gates to precious surfaces without inflicting damage. This is particularly important for kitchen benches that are usually constructed from highly finished materials such as laminate, stone or timber.

This procedure can also be used for attaching to structural glass as may be encountered in a balustrade for example.

Cupboards & Drawers

A parent or carers first responsibility with cupboards and drawers is wherever possible to move dangerous items or substances out of toddlers reach. These include toxic or corrosive chemicals, medications, sharp utensils and glass objects.

Usually relocation is not totally viable therefore a combination of relocation and cupboard and drawer latches should be implemented. This will minimise the number of latches required.

A range of latches are readily available from retailers however you should ensure you choose a quality that will withstand not only the strength of a toddler but also a grown up who is unaware the latches are installed.


Before purchasing latches you should investigate the configuration of cabinets to ensure the latches will install without fouling cupboards or drawers. Obstacles most often encountered include:

  • Cupboards with sinks or troughs that foul projecting latches
  • Drawers without sufficient clearance to install latch
  • Cupboards with flush doors that offer no opportunity to install the catch component of the latch.

In most instances these obstacles can be overcome by using a shortened latch or installing a ‘spacer’.

Magnetic Latches

Magnetic latches can work well particularly where there is a confined space behind the cupboard door. A positive feature is the activation bar that can be used to disengage the latch when not in use.

Magnetic latches must be precision installed to function correctly and cupboard doors should be rigid with little or no lateral tolerance in the hinges.

Four screw holes and a larger clearance hole for the magnetic spindle must be drilled into the back face of your cupboard or drawer.

At least one spare magnet should be safely stored as they are prone to be misplaced particularly where older children are present.

As there is no visible sign of these latches they should be aligned with door furniture and fixed in the same position on every door so their position can be located quickly. Fossicking around for the latch can be frustrating.

Ensure others with access to the cupboards are aware of their existence as they can damage easily if forced.

Externally Fitted Latches

These are available in many configurations including loop locks, slide locks, Velcro latches etc. Very few of these latches however activate automatically when cupboards or drawers are closed. Their effectiveness is therefore determined by the vigilance of the user to ensure they are closed after use.

Poorer quality latches can be difficult to manipulate as the high tolerances can cause the plastic components to jam and fail.

External latches tend to be satisfactory for cupboards or drawers that are infrequently used, however they tend to be frustrating in high use areas such as kitchens.

Self Adhesive Latches

Landlords and Agents will often not permit ‘intrusive’ installations and home owners with high quality cabinetry often do not want their doors compromised with screw holes.

Commercially available latches that install with the aid of self adhesive pads have a tendency to fail through constant use. This is generally because the bearing area of the adhesive pad is not sufficient in size.

HomesafeKids has developed a method of applying latches using self adhesive technology. The bearing surface of the adhesive pad must be significant and the latch must be moulded from a soft compound plastic to absorb the forces applied when opening. An industrial strength foam core adhesive tape is required for adhesion and further shock absorption.

When the latch is no longer required it can be removed with no damage to the cabinetry.

Door Safety

Finger jam injuries are extremely common with toddlers and can result in nerve damage or at worst amputation. Statistically the most severe injuries occur on the hinge side of the door and most often on the inside opening rather than the outside. A door that opens to form a cavity is an inviting place for a toddler to hide. They can insert fingers into the gap and simultaneously push the door closed unaware of the harm they are causing themselves.

Doors that could be an attraction to a toddler should be secured with a finger jam protector. This is a self adhesive plastic strip that covers the gap in the door.

Doors that are wind affected should be restrained. There are a variety of products ranging from temporary foam buffers to integrated door furniture.


Electrocution is reducing as a cause of toddler injury largely due to statutory regulations governing switchboard safety devices.


You should ensure your switchboard is protected with a Residual Current Device usually denoted on your switchboard as RCD unless specialised imported components have been used. This is an automatic shutdown switch that instantly detects a power purge and cuts power.

Older houses may not be equipped with an RCD but these can be retro-fitted by a registered electrician for as little as $250. This is crucial to toddler safety.

Power Points

Regardless of the presence of an RCD, power points should always be protected using plastic power point inserts.

Power Boards

Most homes require power-boards due to the proliferation of low current devices typical of our hi-tech era. Power-boards are easy for a toddler to access; therefore any unused terminals should be protected with plastic inserts.

A preferred option to this would be to replace power-boards with child safe models that deny access to the terminals as soon as a plug is removed.

Some toddlers develop a fascination with power switches. A reasonable resolution is to use a child safe power-board attached to a wall socket that is isolated by furniture.

Trailing Cords

Parents should be careful not to leave trailing appliance cords overhanging benches. Toddlers tend to grab onto items above their heads and if they dislodge a heavy appliance or worse still a kettle of boiling water they could cause permanent injury.

Excessive Cords

The proliferation of computer and hi-fi equipment present in most households usually results in an excess of loose cords. Where possible isolate cords behind furniture or bundle them together using a proprietary wiring loom to avoid the possibility of strangulation.

Blind Cords

From 2009 all new blinds must be installed with cords restrained to the wall or window architrave.

Accessible blind cords have been responsible for many instances of strangulation. Low level looped cords are particularly dangerous for obvious reasons. Many parents are satisfied if loops are out of toddlers reach, however care must be taken to ensue that subsequent moving of furniture does not render cords accessible. A chair or couch near a looped cord could be fatal. Never position a cot within reach of blind cords.

Blind cords that are not secured can be easily addressed by hanging the cord on a self adhesive hook positioned high on the window architrave.

Cords with a pulley weight can be as dangerous as loose cords. A small screw eye  positioned in the bottom of the weight will allow it to be positioned onto a hook located on the window architrave.


Many toddlers are hospitalised from injuries sustained in falls against sharp furniture corners, fireplace hearths or tiled bath surrounds.

Corner protectors are readily available but rarely provide satisfactory protection. Most corner protectors are moulded from a semi-soft plastic similar to the material teething toys are made from. The adhesive is weak and therefore they are easily removed by an inquisitive toddler.
Homesafekids uses a low density foam cushion that is larger than most available and therefore offers a greater degree of protection. This also provides a larger bearing surface and subsequently better adhesion.


Each year in Australia approximately 38,000 children visit hospital emergency centres with glass related injuries.

Low Level Windows

Older houses with low level windows, particularly those built in the 70’s and 80’s will almost always have extremely fragile glazing. Where there is space in front of the window for a toddler to run, there is an ever present danger of serious glass injury.

Windows can be re-glazed or an inexpensive alternative would be to install security film. This is a 7 micron film that is applied to the window and will prevent any penetration of the glass. The glass can break on impact but the shards will remain in place preventing injury. HomesafeKids has many client testimonies of windows with safety film being broken by a young child with no resulting injury.

Low level window glass in modern houses must, by law be safety glass however there are still instances where unscrupulous builders will specify standard float glass to gain a tender advantage. Tempered safety glass will display a discrete insignia fired into one corner. If this does not appear it is quite possibly laminated safety glass that has no visible marking. Measuring the glass thickness will give some clue as to its construction. For example 4 mm thick glass will most likely be laminated glass constructed from 2 sheets of 2mm. Whereas 3mm glass will almost definitely be float glass and extremely dangerous.


Glass products such as bottles, bowls, saucepan lids etc. can cause severe glass cut injuries. Always ensure that these items are located well out of reach of toddlers or in latched cupboards particularly where hard floors will result in glass smashing.


Glass ornaments should never be located in areas where toddlers are prone to play. They may look attractive but could cause severe injury if they break. You should avoid small goldfish bowls located on accessible tables as these can attract toddlers.

Unstable Items & Furniture

You should always be aware of furniture items or ornaments with unstable bases that could be easily pulled over. Babies commencing the toddler stage will use objects to pull themselves up. Typical items are coat stands, planter tubs and fire tools. Isolate any items that could injure a toddler if they should topple.

Most toddlers at some stage will be prone to climbing and therefore shelving can be particularly hazardous. If shelving is not stable consider bracketing it to the wall. If your toddler shows a tendency to climb, remove toys or any attractions from high shelves.




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