Operating a Child Car Restraint Fitting Service in Perth Western

Operating a Child Car Restraint Fitting Service in Perth Western
Operating a Child Car Restraint Fitting Service in Perth Western
Sue Wicks1 (Presenter); Melita Leeds1
Kidsafe Western Australia (Inc)
Sue Wicks (BA, P/Grad Dip Education, P/Grad Dip Health Promotion) is the Executive
Officer of Kidsafe WA. Sue represents Kidsafe WA on the WA Office of Road Safety’s Child
Restraint Advisory Group (formerly the Child Restraint Sub-Committee of the Occupant
Restraint Taskforce), is a qualified Type 1 child restraint fitter, has a Certificate IV
Assessment and Workplace Training and is the spokesperson for Kidsafe WA on child
restraint and child safety issues. Sue is currently working toward her Master of Public
Child Car Restraint checking was first piloted in WA in 1998 by Kidsafe WA and had similar
findings to services conducted in other states. The BankWest Rural Child Restraint Program
and Free Child Car Restraint Checking Stations conducted by Roadwise committees
developed from these pilots.
In 1999, the Injury Control Program, Health Department of WA prepared the document; Child
Car Restraints in Western Australia, A Framework for Action which outlined 5 objectives to
achieve the vision of reducing the number of deaths and injuries to WA child motor vehicle
occupants aged 0 – 14 years involved in motor vehicle crashes.
Establishment of accredited training for Type 1 fitters and the development of a network of
fitting stations have taken a long time to finalise. When periodic free checking stations
ceased in 2001, public appeal to Kidsafe WA resulted in the development of a Centre based
child car restraint fitting and checking service, which is currently the only formalised child car
restraint fitting service in WA.
Since the service was established, about 1100 restraints have been installed or checked.
The installation / checking process documents all aspects and variables involved from the
vehicle, the restraint, the anchorage point and bracket, actual installation, including seatbelts
and discussion and demonstration of proper fit and adjustment for the child who is to use the
Typical issues seen are improperly installed or used anchor brackets, inappropriate use of
upper tether straps & inappropriate seatbelt use and harness adjustment. Less frequently,
but of greater significance are damage to straps and seat belts, damage to or missing parts
from the restraint body.
The implications for a state-wide network of authorised fitting stations are that there is a need
for appropriate training of fitters, quality assurance of authorised fitting services and overall
co-ordination by a body that holds knowledge, expertise and skills in the content area.
Occupant protection is a key component of overall road safety strategies in all states. The
special requirements of children for appropriate restraint as passengers in cars are often
minimised. Proper fitting and use of child car restraints has been shown to reduce their risk
of injury and death in car crashes. This paper describes putting the theory and policy related
to child car restraint fitting into practice in one service, operated by a non-government, notfor-profit organisation in WA.
Michael Henderson’s 1994 report, Children in Car Crashes, An in-depth study of car crashes
in which child occupants were injured found that children who were properly restrained in a
properly fitted and used child restraint were more likely to survive car crashes with little or no
injury. The study also highlighted significant poor installation and misuse of child restraints in
the study crashes. Subsequent to this report, a number of Kidsafe State Divisions conducted
In 1998, Kidsafe WA piloted Free Child Car Restraint Checking Services in Perth WA to trial
the effectiveness and feasibility of child restraint checking in the Perth metropolitan area and
assess whether children in four areas of the Perth Metropolitan area were being transported
correctly in motor vehicles.
Child car restraints were checked and assessed for criteria ranging from suitability of the
restraint for the child, compliance with Australian Standard AS 1754, correct harness
adjustment for the child using the restraint, correct fitting of the restraint with the seatbelt and
upper tether, correct anchorage to the vehicle and whether any required accessories are
used correctly. Checkers also had the option to record other concerns.
Each child restraint check was recorded on a checklist, the original of which was given to the
parent / carer while the duplicate was kept for evaluation purposes. Where possible,
problems were rectified at the time of checking and adjustments made by the fitter were
recorded on the checklist form. Kidsafe WA employees who had successfully completed a
Child Restraint Fitters Course conducted the child car restraint checking, assisted by
volunteers who had completed a Child Restraint Seminar.
Almost 2 out of 3 restraints checked had one or more faults with the fitting of the restraint in
the vehicle or usage faults. These findings were consistent with findings of similar surveys
conducted by Kidsafe ACT and others.
A recommendation from the pilot project was that individuals checking or fitting child car
restraints needed to have a comprehensive knowledge of child restraints.
In May 1999, Kidsafe WA received once off funding to conduct a Type 1 child restraint
checking training course for Regional Injury Prevention Officers and Roadwise personnel in
order to enable child restraint checking to be conducted in other parts of Western Australia.
After completing this training course, local government Roadwise groups and Regional Injury
Prevention Officers were able to conduct periodic free child restraint checking services
throughout the state. From calls to Kidsafe WA, it soon became apparent that a once off
training course with no post training support or updating was not an effective means of
skilling individuals with the necessary competencies to correctly and confidently check or fit
child car restraints.
The Road Safety Council of WA has a number of taskforces to address different areas and
issues in Road Safety in Western Australia. Membership of the taskforces is cross-sectoral.
A small group focusing on child car restraints was a sub-committee of the Vehicle Occupant
Restraint Taskforce.
Two documents developed out of the Child Car Restraints Sub-Committee. The first, Child
Restraint Fitting Station Scheme – Business Rules by the Department of Transport, outlined
a vision for a network of child restraint fitting stations throughout the state and described
proposed roles and responsibilities of both Type 1 and Type 2 authorised fitting stations.
The second, Child Car Restraints in Western Australia; A Framework For Action, (September
1999) published by the Injury Control Program, Health Department of WA outlined five
objectives to achieve the vision of reducing the number of deaths and injuries to WA child
motor vehicle occupants aged 0 – 14 years involved in motor vehicle crashes. The
Objectives described were:
1. Improved co-ordination
2. Increase the community’s perception of the importance of child car restraints
3. Increase the community’s knowledge of age-appropriate restraints
4. Increase the correct installation of child car restraints
5. Increase the compliance with the use of appropriate child car restraints
Three members of the Child Car Restraint Sub-committee, Kidsafe WA, Roadwise and
Coastal and Wheatbelt Public Health Unit recommended that before either of these
documents could be implemented the training of Type 1 fitters needed to be formalised and
accredited using a competency based training model, to ensure that there was accuracy and
consistency in the standard of child restraint fitting and checking being undertaken.
The tender to develop the training course ready for accreditation was advertised and
awarded in 2001. By July 2003, the course had not been submitted to the WA Training
Accreditation Council for accreditation and information received at that point indicated that it
was unlikely to gain accreditation in its current structure and format. Issues related to how
the quality, integrity and consistency of the training will be maintained are, at the time of
writing, still being addressed.
Agencies delivering community based free child restraint checking services were being
inundated with requests for services that they were finding it increasingly difficult to meet.
These agencies decided upon a cessation of services while the accreditation of the child
restraint fitter training course was being worked on,
By mid 2001, there was a situation where a demand for services in relation to child car
restraint fitting and checking had been created in the community but the community based
free services had ceased and private enterprises offering fee for service child restraint fitting
were not being monitored or updated. Consequently Kidsafe WA received numerous calls
from members of the community requesting assistance in fitting or checking the installation of
child restraints or expressions of concern about the quality of fitting that had been received
from private enterprise. As the leading child safety body in WA, with the necessary
knowledge and skills in the area of child restraint fitting, Kidsafe WA commenced a centre
based, fee for service fitting and checking service in late 2001to fill the gap.
Each vehicle and child restraint that comes to Kidsafe WA for fitting or for checking of an
installed restraint is documented on an installation checklist. The client gets the original copy
and the duplicate is kept for the Fitting Service records and is later entered onto a database.
The installation and checking process documents all aspects and variables involved from the
vehicle, the restraint, the anchorage point and bracket, actual installation, including seatbelts
and discussion and demonstration of proper fit and adjustment for the child who is to use the
restraint. The checklist also records the location of the fitting service (sometimes it is other
than Kidsafe WA Centre based), date and whether the service provided is a fitting, a check
or a check & re-fit. A copy of the checklist proforma is included at the end of this paper.
The vehicle make, model, body type, year of manufacture, registration number and, if an
after market anchor point installation has been made, whether a modification permit has
been sighted, are all recorded along with an assessment of any existing anchor bolt
installation in the vehicle. Since 2001, Kidsafe WA have fitted or checked child car restraints
in almost every make of passenger vehicle, from Audi through the major manufacturers
Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi to Porsche and Volvo, every body type from standard sedans, to
sports cars to 4WD’s and utilities. Dates of manufacture range from 1965 to 2003. The
greatest proportion of vehicles presenting at the fitting service are from the major
manufacturers and have been manufactured in the last ten to twelve years.
Our process records detail about the child restraints that includes: Manufacturer, restraint
type and configuration, model and date of manufacture (if not a new restraint). The restraint
is also checked to confirm Australian Standards, and weight and age / size appropriateness
for the child who is to use it.
Where second hand restraints are brought in, our procedure is to recommend that restraints
over ten years of age not be used. Fortunately, the percentage of restraints that are over ten
years of age coming to Kidsafe WA for fitting is very small and in many cases, the client is
only too happy to have a reason to not use the restraint.
The greatest proportion of child restraint new installations is for a rearward-facing
configuration, with forward facing and conversion to forward facing being the next highest
proportion of fittings. Fitting of booster seats and child safety harnesses are a very small
proportion of the fittings that are done through Kidsafe WA.
In terms of checking an already installed restraint, again the highest proportion of
attendances at Kidsafe WA is for a child restraint in a rearward-facing configuration, with
forward-facing restraints being the next highest proportion, followed by capsules, then
booster seats.
The process and practice for Kidsafe WA fitters is to verify anchorage requirements against
the Vehicle Owner’s Handbook. For vehicles manufactured in the last five years, where the
majority have at least one manufacturer installed anchor bolt and bracket, this practice
simply confirms what the fitter observes. This practice is still important for recent model
vehicles which are starting to have three manufacturer installed anchor brackets, sometimes
in different locations than is common, eg seat backs, or welded D ring type anchorage
Where the fitters have the most difficulty in following this practice is with vehicles that were
purchased as used vehicles. Often the Vehicle Owners Handbook was not supplied with the
vehicle; in some cases the manufacturer installed anchor bolts have been moved from their
original location or removed altogether and where the manufacturer specifies or supplies
anchor assembly components that are different from the standard kits, these parts are no
longer with the vehicle. For the majority of vehicles that use the standard anchor bolt kit, this
does not pose a major problem but in vehicles where the manufacturer specifies a nonstandard bolt length (standard length is 30mm) and more than the 15mm of spacers provided
with a standard kit, it means that the anchor bolt and bracket often cannot be installed until
the manufacturer specified parts are obtained, sometimes at exorbitant cost to the vehicle
The Kidsafe WA fitting service practice and recommendation is to leave
manufacturer fitted anchor bolts where they are and install another bolt in the required
location, if an alternate seating position is to be used for the child restraint.
The main issues related to anchorage installations that Kidsafe WA fitters observe in
checking installed child restraints are: incorrect location, incorrect assembly and incorrect
bolt type. Examples of incorrect location of anchor bolts includes:
ƒ Anchor brackets sharing the seat mounting bolts
ƒ Anchor brackets attached to rear door-mounting bolts
ƒ Holes drilled into vehicle bodywork where manufactured anchor points exist
ƒ Luggage tie-down clips identified as anchorage systems
ƒ Anchor bolts fitted into the trim plug holes
Examples of incorrect anchor assembly and incorrect anchor bolt type include:
ƒ No spacers used where they should be
ƒ Too many spacers used when only a 5mm or 10mm spacer is required. These are
often assembled as one spacer directly under the bolt head and one under the
bracket and sometimes as one under the bolt head and one on the lower end of the
bolt, held in place by a nut.
ƒ No lock washer or split washer used
ƒ Lock washer / split washer incorrectly located i.e. at lower end of bolt, held in place
with a spacer and a nut
ƒ Anchor bracket facing wrong direction
ƒ Keyhole anchor components mixed with hook type anchor components
When installing or checking child restraints, Kidsafe WA fitters examine the vehicle seatbelt,
ensure that the correct seatbelt pathway for the restraint configuration has been used,
assess the usage of the upper tether strap, determine if an extension strap or gated buckle is
required and if they have been used correctly.
Common issues observed in related to seatbelts included:
ƒ Twists in the seatbelt. These are particularly difficult to eliminate where the twist
appears to have occurred at the time of vehicle assembly.
ƒ Seatbelt buckle turned to the wrong side of the seatbelt. This is observed in about 1
in 5 vehicles.
ƒ Broken seatbelt retaining clips on the buckle tongue
ƒ Broken or malfunctioning buckles
ƒ Fraying or tears in the seatbelt webbing.
ƒ Buckles with exceptionally long lengths of webbing leading back to the vehicle
attachment point. These often mean the seatbelt cannot be tightened properly
through the restraint pathway because the buckle runs up against the restraint body,
preventing the seat belt from tightening any further.
ƒ Auto locking on seatbelts not engaged where it is a feature of the vehicle seatbelt.
Commonly observed issues related to seatbelt configuration and seatbelt pathway include:
ƒ Wrong seatbelt for the seating position threaded through the restraint.
ƒ No seatbelt used
ƒ Incorrect pathway for restraint configuration used.
Common upper tether strap, extension strap and gated buckle issues observed:
ƒ Upper tether strap too tight. If too tight, it pulls a rearward facing restraint toward the
back of the vehicle.
ƒ Upper tether strap not used at all.
ƒ Upper tether strap used incorrectly to reach the anchor bracket
ƒ Upper tethers attached to something other than an anchor bracket
ƒ Upper tether badly twisted or obstructed by vehicle headrest
ƒ No extension strap used when required
ƒ Too long an extension strap used, resulting in the clip locating forward of the vehicle
seat back
ƒ Keyhole extension straps used with hook tethers and vice versa.
ƒ Gated buckles are frequently fitted upside down or with the seatbelt threaded in such
a way that it is not actually secured in place.
Upper tether attached to seatbelt
Twisted Upper Tether
Upper tether used incorrectly to reach the anchor point
No Upper tether visible
Extension strap clip forward of vehicle seat back
Fitters also assess variables such as the suitability of the harness shoulder height for the
child who is to use the restraint, the firmness of fit of the harness and whether the harness
buckle is operating correctly. A high proportion of child restraint fittings are for expectant
parents, so there is often not a baby or child to assess the fit of the harness on. In these
instances, the process for Kidsafe WA fitters is to demonstrate and discuss the harness
adjustment and correct fitting guidelines with the client and answer any questions they may
have related to the use of the restraint.
Fitters will also show clients where the restraint instruction book is located and recommend
that the instruction book be left with the restraint for future reference. Where second hand
restraints have been used and there is no instruction book, Kidsafe WA will supply a
photocopy of the relevant instruction book if available or advise the client to contact the
restraint manufacturer to obtain a copy of the instruction book. Contact numbers for any
referrals are written on the checklist so the client has a copy to take away.
Second hand or used restraints are about ten percent of fittings or checks coming to Kidsafe
WA. Extra care is taken with second hand restraints to inspect the restraint for any visible
signs of wear and tear of the harnessing and tethering, visible signs of stress in the restraint
shell and missing or damaged parts. Clients are advised that this is only a visual assessment
and that there is the chance that deterioration or stressing may be present that does not
have visible evidence. During this examination of the restraint, the fitter will also re-thread the
harness to suit the child who is to use it. Often the scenario is that the restraint was last used
by a 2 – 3 year old child and is now to be used for a newborn, resulting in the harness having
to be adjusted down one or more shoulder levels for the newborn. For some older restraint
makes, the harness threading is so complex that they are never threaded correctly when
they present at the fitting service and consequently take significant amounts of fitter time to
untangle and re-thread correctly.
In many instances, convertible restraints that are in a rearward-facing configuration often sit
at a steep angle once installed in the vehicle. This usually happens where the vehicle has
very sloped or contoured seats. Kidsafe WA fitters assess the angle of the restraint against
manufacturer recommendations and where necessary, will place one folded towel under the
restraint base to level off and adjust for the slope of the vehicle seat. This practice is
according to manufacturer recommendations.
A recently emerging issue related to vehicle seats is the narrow spacing between seatbelt
and seatbelt buckle positions in some vehicles, resulting in the restraint base not fitting
properly in the seating position.
Another observation is the need for different length extension straps. The standard lengths
currently available are 300mm and 600mm. These lengths have not changed for as long as
they have been available, yet in that time cars have changed and the location of anchor
points have changed. Our fitting service has observed that for the extension strap clip to site
behind the vehicle seat back, a range of extension strap sizes from as short as 150mm
though to 400mm would often better suit modern vehicles.
What the Kidsafe WA Child Restraint Fitting and Checking Service demonstrates is that for a
state-wide network of fitting services to be effective, there needs to be quality training and
updating of the fitters, the Fitting Services need to put in place quality assurance measures,
such as detailed recording of the work they perform and the overall scheme needs to be co-
ordinated by a body that holds the necessary knowledge, expertise and skills in the content
area. There are too many variables that come into play for child restraint fitting or checking to
be conducted on an occasional basis, expertise is built from hands on day-to-day practice.
Department of Transport. 1999. Child Restraint Fitting Station Scheme – Business Rules
Health Department of WA, Injury Control Program. 1999. Child Car Restraints in Western
Australia; A Framework For Action
Health Department of WA, Injury Control Program. 1997. Child Car Restraint Use in WA.
Henderson, M. 1994. Children in Car Crashes: An In-Depth study of car crashes in which
child occupants were injured. Report for the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of
Australia (NSW).
Kidsafe ACT. 1997. ACT Child Restraint Checking: Report of Findings.
Kidsafe WA. 1998. Assessing Child Restraint Misuse in Perth, WA.
Child car restraint, fitting service
Linda Waters, Fiona Edwards, Kate Smith, Leonie Barnes as previous Kidsafe WA
employees involved in child car restraint fitting and checking services
PMH Foundation, SGIO and Britax Child Care Products for their support in helping to get the
Kidsafe WA Fitting and Checking Service established.
Cnr Thomas St & Roberts Rd
Ph: (08) 9340 8509 Fax: (08)
9340 8041
[email protected]
Inspection site: _________________________
† Fit
Date: ____________
† Check & Re-fit
† Check
Vehicle Details (Tick which applies)
† Sedan
† Hatchback
† Dual Cab
† Utility
† Station Wagon
† Light passenger van
† 4WD
† Other
Make of Vehicle:
Year of Vehicle:
Model of Vehicle:
Registration Number:
Modification Permit / Plate Sighted
† Yes
† No
† N/A
TYPE OF RESTRAINT (Tick which applies)
† Baby Safety Capsule (0-9kg)
† Booster Seat
† Convertible Seat
† With back
† Without back
† Rear Facing † Forward Facing
† Used with harness
† Toddler Seat (8-18kg)
Child Harness
Restraint Make (Tick which applies)
Seating Position of restraint
ˆ Safe-N-Sound
ˆ Baby Love
ˆ IGC/Fisher Price/ Mothers Choice ˆ Secure
ˆ Other __________________
Model _______________________
(Tick which applies)
Correct anchorage bolt used
Correct anchorage assembly
Correct anchorage point (behind and
Mounting kit used to attach keyhole
attachment to post`93 anchor point
Seat belt strapping is not twisted
Seat belt configuration correct
Top tether is used correctly
Extension strap clip is behind the seat
Gated Buckle used on seat belt
Harness straps are firm to fit baby
Buckle on the harness is done up
Shoulder harness at the correct level
Kidsafe WA fitters are trained to the best available information. The information on this form is a record of the procedure of the fitting or checking
service. No responsibility can be taken for any change in condition after leaving the fitting or checking centre.
Restraint complies with Australian
Standard AS1754
Restraint is suitable for the weight / age
of the child
Restraint is under ten years old
Capsule is 50mm from the front
Gated buckle used on lap/sash
driver/passenger seat
† NO
† YES † NO
Correct sash location
Lap Belt only
Kidsafe WA fitters are trained to the best available information. The information on this form is a record of the procedure of the fitting or checking
service. No responsibility can be taken for any change in condition after leaving the fitting or checking centre.
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