Falls & Tip-Overs

Decks and Porches: Safety in Your Outdoor Space

You might not be able to get your little explorers to relax, but you can rest easier once your outdoor space has been made child-ready. It’s worth it to check on–and possibly implement–a few easy things before kicking up your feet and enjoying the fresh air.


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    • Make sure that the railing is not more than 4 inches off of the deck or porch surface, to avoid letting your child crawl through. 
    • If the slats or spindles in your railing create spaces that are wider than 4 inches, you should add additional slats or spindles to fill in the gaps so your child cannot slip through. If this is not possible, install a guard. Be sure to set it up on the inside, especially if the railing has horizontal bars that could be used for climbing. 
    • Keep furniture and outdoor decorations away from railings. Children will climb on anything, bringing them that much closer to the railing, and potentially falling over the edge. 
    • If you have stairs leading down from your deck or porch, make sure there is a handrail, and install a gate at the top and bottom of the stairs if you have small children.

    • Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from other things, including the house, trees or bushes. Never use your grill in the house, or in the garage. 
    • Make sure to keep children away from the grill (or any other outdoor cooking equipment, or fire pits); create a zone of 3 feet around these things, so that children understand what is a safe distance. 
    • When cooking, be sure to stand by the grill, and when you are finished, soak coals with cold water and then place them in a noncombustible metal can for safe disposal. Charcoal may feel cool to the touch, but if you throw away coals that are still hot on the inside, you may risk starting a fire.
    • Store propane tanks in the garage, not in the house.

    • Place any open-flame lights, like candles or torches, up and out of your child’s reach. And remember to extinguish them before you go back inside. 
    • If you are using outdoor string lights: 
      • Make sure that the lights do not have frayed or exposed wires, and do not use the same extension cord for more than 3 strands of lights, to help avoid a fire. 
      • Place the lights up and out of your child’s reach, so that s/he does not become entangled in them. For more on strangulation risks, go here.
    •  Cover any outdoor electrical outlets that are not in use.

    • Make sure that the doors and windows that lead to your deck or porch are locked at all times, so children can’t access the space unsupervised. If you do not have locks, you can install them. 
    • Check your outdoor space regularly for wear and tear. See if you can find any loose boards, railings or splinters, and look for more serious deterioration that can be caused by water, weather, animals or insects. Have a professional inspect any area that you are unsure of.

Did You Know?

Slats or spindles in your porch or deck railing should not be spaced more than 4 inches apart, to help prevent your child from slipping through.

- American Academy of Pediatrics