Safekids Aotearoa gave parents advice on how to keep children safe around washing machines after a child dies. Photo / Getty Images
The tragic death of a preschooler in a front-loading washing machine is a sad reminder for all parents to talk to their children about the dangers of everyday household appliances, according to safety experts.
The preschooler died in hospital on Friday after being found unconscious in a running washing machine at a house in Hoon Hay, Christchurch.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and the death occurred with the coroner.
Mareta Hunt, director of Safekids Aotearoa, said the grief caused by this tragic event “puts us at a loss for words.”
“This is devastating news for Aotearoa, where we strive to create safe, nurturing and loving environments. Our thoughts and hearts are with whānau.”
Hunt said washing machine-related deaths were rare in New Zealand, but families could keep children safe by locking laundry room doors or by locking the machine itself.
1. Lock your laundry room door
The best plan is to prevent your children from having access to the machines. If your washer and dryer are in a separate room, close the door and lock it. Do not let young children play in the laundry room.
2. Keep the washing machine door closed.
Leaving the door open on front loaders can help prevent mold, but if you have small children at home, keep the door closed.
3. Activate the washing machine lock function
Many clothes washers these days have a child lock or lock feature – usually activated by holding a button combination or holding a button for a certain number of seconds.
4. Use a child resistant safety lock
A safety lock that you can place on the outside of the door of a front-loading washing machine will also prevent your child from opening it. The concept is the same as a lock for cabinet or oven doors. It’s also a good idea to put one on your dryer.
5. Turn off the water
When your machine is not in use, turn off the water tap that supplies it. Most front load washers will stop working and display an error code if the water is turned off.
6. Consider installing additional power switches
Hire an electrician to wire a “master” switch for the washing machine and one for the dryer that you can turn off when not in use. This way your child will not be able to turn on the devices even if they can reach the buttons. Just make sure the switch is located out of the sight and reach of small children.
7. Also beware of laundry detergents
In addition to washing machine safety precautions, keep in mind that laundry detergent pouches, also known as pods or packs, can be especially tempting and dangerous for young children.
Front-loading washing machines become airtight when the door is closed, so you don’t even have to turn the machine on to cause death.
There have been similar deaths overseas, with police and security advocates also issuing warnings.
In Florida in 2019, a 3-year-old boy died after being trapped in a front-loading washing machine during a match with a sibling.
Police believe the door closed and created an airtight seal inside the washing machine drum.
It is understood that the boy died due to lack of oxygen.
In this case, police warned parents to look at household appliances “through the eyes of a child”.
Orlando Police said today’s washing machines come in all colors and have buttons that light up, make cool sounds and see-through windows.
“So for a young child, they look like fun equipment and will often want to play on or with them. “