Ikea doesn’t have the best recent track record when it comes to product safety: Since 1989, eight children have died when Ikea furniture toppled on them, crushing them to death. These deaths spurred the Swedish furniture giant to recall 29 million of its dressers. This is in addition to millions of other products—from high chairs to crib mattresses to kid’s bedroom lights—that have been recalled because they were known to cause harm to kids, from “scratches and broken limbs to strangulation,” as my colleague Katharine Schwab reported in an in-depth investigation.
Ikea is now investing heavily in a “Safer Homes” initiatives, which is a suite of tools and activities, “geared toward helping create a safer life at home for families and children,” according to the company’s announcement. Many aspects of this program seem to respond directly to the outrage over furniture toppling over and killing children. For instance, Ikea will host in-store workshops, “to help customers learn how to create a safer life at home for families with children, with a specific focus on furniture tip-over.” These workshops will begin in November this year, then into February and June of 2020. Ikea will also partner with pediatricians to create “Safer Homes” messages that will be displayed on screens at doctors’ offices, targeting parents and caregivers.
Yesterday, Ikea launched an app and a landing page devoted to the initiative, where consumers can access information about product safety. Parents will be able to create a child safety checklist based on their child’s age, and browse through rooms to see how they can make each space safer.
The site emphasizes how much Ikea tests every object within its collection: “When testing our products, we consider both intended and unintended use, to identify and minimize potential safety risks. Each product goes through a long process of testing and is not launched until we are sure that it is safe. And even after our products are launched, we continue to evaluate and test them on a regular basis, and if needed we make improvements.”
Throughout, Ikea also emphasizes the responsibility of parents to make sure the furniture is safely installed. In a video, a narrator says, “As a parent, you child-proof everything . . . but you may not have thought about one thing, and that’s securing your drawers and chests to the walls.” At another point, the page reads, “Most injuries happen at home, but with a bit of knowledge, many can be prevented.”
This initiative does help parents find useful information about how to secure their furniture—but the brand’s language seems to subtly shift the blame for injuries squarely onto parents.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how many children had died from falling Ikea furniture and has since been updated. We regret the error.