Before 1956, troops of people went around detaching doors and smashing locks on abandoned refrigerators because refrigerator doors could only be opened with a latch from outside and children would often die after locking themselves inside during play
Refrigerator death refers to death by suffocation in a refrigerator or similar device such as a freezer. Such deaths occurred among children in the United States prior to the passage of the Refrigerator Safety Act in 1956. Disused refrigerators were abandoned, often lying on their backs. Children would play in them. In those days, the doors were secured shut by latches that could only be opened by the handle on the outside. The first reactions to the deaths was to ask people not to abandon refrigerators. Then they were told to detach the doors. Troops of people went around detaching doors and smashing locks on abandoned refrigerators. But still children died in appliances that had not been broken because authorities and volunteers had not found them before children found them and climbed in. The inadequacy of these actions led to the law that required a change in the way in which refrigerator doors stay shut, which is now with magnets. The act applied to all refrigerators manufactured in the United States after October 31, 1958.
The number of deaths due to suffocation in refrigerators declined a statistically significant amount in the years after the law.
The problem with children suffocating in the appliances was well-known. At least as early as 1954, alternative methods of securing air-tight closure had been suggested, e.g., in patent 2767011, filed by Francis P. Buckley et alin 1954 and issued in 1956.
The Refrigerator Safety Act is codified at 15 U.S.C. 1211 1214) as Public Law 84-930, 70 Stat. 953, August 2, 1956.
Individual American states also have similar laws, such as California’s”