x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Blame-game won't protect children

Better enforcement of safety regulations and increased vigilance by parents are needed if children's lives are to be protected effectively in high-rise buildings.

When a three-year-old boy fell to his death from a 14th-floor window of a Sharjah building last November, he was at least the fourth child to meet this tragic fate in the last six months.

Since then we have been witness to a telling spectacle of passing the buck. Local authorities, building designers, construction firms and parents have variously been blamed for the accident, or have blamed each other. Each side may have a point, but each side also has a responsibility that, at present, few are taking seriously enough.

Designers, builders and developers must work to ensure building codes are adhered to. As The National reported last week, maintaining minimum heights of balcony railings and windows are two simple and effective safety measures that can help keep children safe.

Implementing these regulations is a good start, but building codes must always adapt to fit changing needs. While the UAE already follows strict UK building codes, the trend of falling deaths demonstrates further measures are needed.

Currently, residents are forbidden from installing some types of safety features that they may hinder potential civil defence operations. A smarter code is in order.

But in the end, all the precautions in the world are useless if safety in the home is not enforced. On these pages we have consistently called for more vigilance by the parents. Children must be watched at all times, and must never be left home alone, even for just a few minutes.

Better awareness campaigns aimed at parents have proven their value. Similar initiatives to improve safety on the roads, including enforcement of child seats, have greatly reduced the number of victims on our roadways.

It is time for the blame game to stop. Preventing accidents can only be achieved through the coming together of all parties for one concerted effort. If even one child's life is saved, it would have been worthwhile.