Bunk beds

'Bunk bed' refers to beds that have one bed stacked over the top of another, or beds where the upper surface of a mattress is over 700 mm from the floor.

The basics

Bunk beds can be dangerous, especially for very young children. Most bunk bed injuries happen when children fall from the top bunk. Children can also get stuck in gaps or get their clothes caught on tall corner posts, which can lead to serious or even fatal injuries.

Product safety standard

There is an Australian/New Zealand product standard that applies to bunk beds — AS/NZS 4220:2010. This standard is voluntary and addresses the design and construction of bunk beds. While this standard isn't mandatory, we strongly recommend compliance with the standard.

Standards New Zealand website — AS/NZS 4220:2010(external link)

Tips for safe use

  • Bunk beds aren't suitable for children under 9 years of age.
  • Use the top bunk only for sleeping. Falls while playing on the top bunk make up most of the injuries.
  • Check ladders and guardrails are fixed and stable.
  • Check regularly for wear and tear. Always repair any damage immediately.
  • Make sure that the mattresses are suitable for the bunk bed in question — for example, if you'e replacing mattresses make sure you check the effect their size will have in relation to the height of the guardrail.
  • Pay particular attention when using bunk beds that aren't familiar to you — for example, in holiday accommodation.

Positioning of bunk beds

  • Ensure the bunk bed is in a safe position within the room/immediate area — keep bunk beds away from other items of furniture that children may be tempted to try and climb onto.
  • Keep bunk beds away from windows.
  • Allow a space of at least 2 metres from ceiling fittings, fans or lights.
  • Make sure curtain and blind cords aren't accessible to children from the bunk bed.

What to look for - safe design and construction

Guardrails

  • Look for bunk beds with guardrails or bed-ends on all sides of the top bunk.
  • Guardrails should be either non-detachable, or if detachable they should be incapable of being moved by a force of 500 N in any direction.
  • The minimum vertical distance between the top of the guardrail and top of the mattress base should be not less than 360mm.
  • Guardrails should be smooth and free from protrusions or potential snag points.
  • If there's an opening to provide easier access to the bed, the opening should have a minimum width of 300mm and a maximum of 400mm.

Gaps

Check that there are no gaps of 95mm to 230mm in any part on the bunk beds, including guardrails and rungs on ladders. Small bodies can fit through — but heads can get stuck.

Protrusions

  • Check that there are no protrusions from the bunk bed more than 5mm. Anything sticking out from the bunks could catch clothing and create a strangling risk.
  • Make sure all nuts, bolts and other fasteners on bunk beds are flat or recessed and smooth and don't create a sharp point, edge or snag hazard.