Are Bunk Beds Safe? We Spoke to An Injury Researcher to Find Out

published Oct 12, 2022
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two girls sitting on top bunk of a white bunk bed
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Here at Cubby, it’s no secret that we’re fans of bunk beds and loft beds. They’re excellent space savers, especially if you live in a small home or if your kids share a room. They’re also just plain fun for kids. However, bunk beds have been known to cause injuries, and they can leave many parents feeling anxious. 

It’s generally accepted that bunk beds are safe starting at age six. But when 12-year-old Little League World Series player Easton Oliverson fell from the top bunk and fractured his skull earlier this year, I began to question whether bunk beds are ever safe. 

To learn more about bunk bed safety, we spoke to Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., MA, FAAHB, who is a Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. 

What are the most common bunk bed injuries? 

Dr. McKenzie explained that half of all bunk bed injuries happen in kids under six but that 18 to 21-year-olds are also highly susceptible. This might be due to heavy bunk bed use in college and the military. 

“Most bunk bed-related injuries occur from falls while sleeping or playing,” Dr. McKenzie said. The most common injuries are cuts, bumps, bruises, and broken bones. The body parts most often injured are the head and neck. 

It’s hard to sleep soundly knowing your kids might be at risk for injury in their beds. We want to help you keep your kids safe, so we asked Dr. McKenzie what parents can do to keep bunk and loft beds as safe as possible. 

How can parents know if a bunk bed is safe? 

While bunk bed injuries are very real, there are many things we can do to reduce the likelihood that our children will get injured. 

As we stated earlier, the top bunk is never safe for a kid younger than six. By the time they’re old enough to use a bunk bed, they should be able to follow the safety rules you set for the bed. If you don’t think your child is mature enough to follow the rules, they probably aren’t old enough to use the bunk bed. 

When you choose a bunk or loft bed, don’t build or “hack” your own. Use a commercially available bed that meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). If the bed you’re considering doesn’t have a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC) or a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) to certify that it’s safe, don’t buy it. A CPC is for children’s beds and a GCC is for adult beds. 

It’s also a good idea to regularly check to ensure there haven’t been any recalls for your bed. If your product includes a registration form, fill that out as well. That way, you should be automatically notified of any recalls.  

What can parents do to make bunk beds safer? 

Once you have a bunk bed or loft bed that meets safety standards, you can modify the environment for safety, and make sure you’re very clear with your kids regarding safety rules. Dr. McKenzie provided some additional tips that parents can use to make bunk beds as safe as possible: 

  • Make sure guard rails are at least 5 inches above the mattress top on both sides with gaps smaller than 3.5 inches
  • Use the right mattress size and ensure it has a strong foundation
  • Don’t allow kids to play on the top bunk
  • Don’t leave dangerous objects around the bed
  • Use a night light near the ladder
  • Keep the top bunk away from ceiling fans
  • Regularly check for broken parts on the ladder and top bunk
  • Teach kids how to climb up and down the ladder 
  • Don’t allow kids to attach anything to the bed, such as belts, scarves, or ropes 

The bottom line is that bunk beds should pass all safety standards, and they shouldn’t be used for any form of play. 

Keeping bunk beds safe

We love bunk and loft beds, and we know that they’re an incredibly convenient and space-saving option for many families. By following the advice laid out above, you can make bunk beds in your home as safe as possible. 

To learn more about bunk bed safety, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) page on bunk beds

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