Ikea Malm chest of drawers to be recalled in the US, but not in Australia

Toppling drawers demonstration

The danger to children of drawers loaded with weights is demonstrated in a US Consumer Product Safety Commission video.

Ikea Australia will not be recalling a popular chest of drawers, despite the announcement that millions of drawers will be recalled by the Swedish manufacturer in North America.

The US recall was announced on Monday in response to the tragic death of 22-month-old Ted McGee, who was found under a fallen "Malm" six-drawer unit at his Minnesota home in the US in February.

Ikea Malm drawers  as advertised in Australia.
Ikea Malm drawers as advertised in Australia. 

At the time of the incident, an Ikea US spokesperson said the company had been advised the product was not attached to the wall, "which is an integral part of the product's assembly instructions".

The Malm drawers have been linked to at least two other deaths in the past two years, prompting the launch of a repair program in 2015, in which consumers were issued repair kits to help attach the dressers to the wall.

In April an Ikea spokesperson said there were no plans to recall Malm drawer units, however on Monday, a statement from the company said that implementing a recall was necessary.

"It is clear that there are still unsecured products in customers' homes, and we believe that taking further action is the right thing to do."

A spokesperson for Ikea Australia said product safety was the "highest priority", but confirmed that it was "not undertaking a recall" in Australia.

"The local recall in North America is an outcome of a dialogue between Ikea in North America and the local consumer authorities," the spokesperson said.

"The recall is based on the local [American] standard, which is a voluntary standard for the sale of chests of drawers in North America."

Ikea provides anti-tip restraints and instructions for wall anchoring with all chests of drawers, she said.

"We spread awareness of the importance of securing furniture on our products and product instructions, on the website and in-store."

In Australia, IKEA's Malm chest range retails for between $99 and $279, depending on the number of drawers.

The American standard is intended to reduce injuries and deaths of children (up to and including age five) from hazards associated with the tip-over of clothing storage units that are more than 76 centimetres in height, including chests, drawer chests, chests of drawers, dressers and bureaus.


Stability testing for the standard requires that any unit "shall not tip over or be supported only by an opened drawer, opened door, or opened or unopened flap."

In Australia the equivalent standard specifically addresses stability performance in relation to the hazard of children climbing on freestanding domestic furniture items. It too is a voluntary standard that has not been referenced in legislation, and references stability tests used to determine the safety of furniture items.

A spokesperson for Standards Australia said "certification, inspection and testing bodies assess whether a product conforms to an Australian Standard. We cannot comment on behalf of IKEA Australia or Australian consumer authorities".

Malm chests of drawers listed on the Ikea Australia website, alongside a warning that they "must be anchored to the wall."
Malm chests of drawers listed on the Ikea Australia website, alongside a warning that they "must be anchored to the wall." 

New data released in April this year found there has been an average of one death a year since 2000 involving furniture falling on children under nine years of age in Australia.

An ACCC spokesperson said it had met with Ikea to discuss the recall actions taking place in the US, however these actions had not identified the furniture as having a safety defect.

"Consumers in Australia are already able to request tip over restraints and wall anchoring instructions for all IKEA chests and dressers as part of IKEA's "Secure it!" campaign launched globally in July 2015," he said, adding that "most suppliers are assisting by providing advice about toppling furniture hazards and how to prevent them."

ACCC's safety tips

Buy safe

  • Purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and broad bases.
  • Look for furniture that comes with safety information or equipment for anchoring it to the walls.
  • Test the furniture in the shop – make sure it is stable.
Toddler Ted McGee was crushed to death when an IKEA chest of drawers fell on top of him in the US in February.
Toddler Ted McGee was crushed to death when an IKEA chest of drawers fell on top of him in the US in February. Photo: Facebook

Use safely

  • Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture to walls and floors.
  • Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.
  • Place televisions at the back of cabinets or secure them to the wall.
  • Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.
  • Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that encourage children to climb up and reach.
  • Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.
  • Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.