Make Sure Bunk Beds Meet Safety Rules

Do you breathe a sigh of relief after you tuck your child into bed at night? If your child sleeps in a bunk bed, your sense of security could be a false one.

Each year, thousands of children visit emergency rooms for injuries linked to bunk beds. Most are minor, caused by horseplay, but some children have died after being trapped in bunk beds, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Experts blame the potentially dangerous injuries on the beds' structure.

"The bed should be newly constructed and assembled correctly," says pediatrician H. Garry Gardner, M.D., professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University's School of Medicine. "Smaller children should sleep in the bottom bunk."

The CPSC has mandated a safety standard for bunk beds. The standard aims to prevent injury or death to children who become trapped in the beds' structure or wedged between the bed and the wall.

When buying a bed

CPSC rules require bunk beds made for sale in the United States meet these requirements:

  • Any bed in which the bottom of the foundation is more than 30 inches from the floor must have guardrails on both sides. The side rail along the wall must be continuous.

  • The openings in the upper bunk structure must be small enough (less than 3.5 inches) to prevent passage of a child's torso.

  • The openings at the ends of the lower bunk structure must be small enough to prevent entry by a child's head or torso, or large enough to permit free passage of the child's torso and head.

  • The bed must bear a label identifying the manufacturer, distributor or seller, the model number and the date of manufacture.

  • A label, warning against placing children under 6 on the upper bunk and specifying mattress size, must be attached to the bed. It must also appear in instructions that accompany the bed.

If you buy a used bunk bed, be sure to check whether it meets the requirements.

Safety tips

The CPSC also offers these guidelines on bunk bed use:

  • Don't allow children younger than 6 to use the upper bunk.

  • Install guardrails on both sides of the upper bunk.

  • Don't allow children to roughhouse on or under the beds.

  • Don't allow more than one child on the upper bunk.

  • Insist that your children use the ladder for entering or leaving the upper bunk.


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