Keeping our family safe is one of our greatest responsibilities. We take many precautions to make sure safety is in mind when we send the kids off to school and go out into the world to work each day. But were you aware that your chances of getting hurt at home are MUCH higher than they are at work or school? Potentially dangerous and sometimes fatal threats are lurking around us every day. The leading causes of death in the home are falls, poisoning, drowning, fires, suffocation, and choking. Children and older adults are especially susceptible to these accidents. Luckily, there are some simple home safety guidelines that will help to keep your home safe and healthy.
Slips and Falls
Falls are the greatest threat to home safety and kill more people than any other accident besides car crashes! While slips and falls can be detrimental to anyone, older adults are especially vulnerable as they fall harder and their bones are not as strong. There are a few steps you can take to reduce your risks.
- Make sure your house is well lit, especially near stairs and uneven surfaces.
- Secure loose rugs to the floor or have non-skid mats underneath.
- Fix or replace any missing floor tiles or damaged carpet right away.
- Install a non-slip floor and a grab rail in your bathtub.
- Repair broken steps right away and ensure all handrails are secured tight.
- Keep the floors as clear as possible. Have dedicated places for children toys, shoes, and anything that often finds itself on the floor.
- Don’t use chairs or tables as makeshift ladders.
- Teach your children not to run indoors or jump downstairs.
- If children are present, have secure gates at every staircase.
- Ensure outdoor play equipment sits atop an impact absorbing surface.
More than one million children age 5 and under are poisoned each year in the United States. Many hazardous everyday items can look or smell appealing to a child, so it is critical to take some steps to poison proof each room of your house.
- Have childproof locks on all cabinets. If no child lives in the home have childproof locks on your cabinets with chemicals stored in them.
- Make sure all household cleaners are out of reach from children and labeled clearly. Bleach, drain, and oven cleaners, detergents are all potential dangers. If possible, do not clean with children present.
- Bathroom hazards include makeup, mouthwash, deodorants, first aid supplies, and medications. Keep these sure and consider disposing of unused medicines after you are no longer actively taking them rather than storing them.
- Always wash your hands after handling any chemicals.
- Never use an oven or stove as a heat source as they release CO into the air.
- Garages and basements often present the greatest dangers in the home, as many poisonous items are stored here. Secure hazardous items such as anti-freeze, gasoline, paints, and road salts. If possible, keep children out of these spaces altogether if possible.
- If someone does accidentally poison themselves, call your local Poison
- Make sure attached garages are sealed off from your conditioned living space to prevent any CO seeping into your home.
- Check the age of your heating and cooling equipment. Older systems are prone to back drafting and allow dangerous gases to enter your home.
- Learn more about CO and the dangers it can present to you and your family here.
Drowning kills more than 1,000 children aged 14 and under each year and sends another 20,000 to the hospital for near-drowning incidents. Pools can be a blast for the family when the weather is warm, but they also present dangers if safety is not ensured.
- Always watch children around pools and make sure they do not run on pool decks or patios.
- All pools and hot tubs should have a fence at least five feet high with a self-closing latch. This fence should not be climbable.
- Remove toys from the pool after swimming so children are not tempted to return to the pool to play.
- Never leave a young child alone in the bathtub. Only a few inches of water is needed to cause a drowning incident for a young child.
Fires and Burns
Each year there is an average of 400,000 residential fires, resulting in 7 billion dollars in damage and 3,000 deaths. While the number has been decreasing over the last decade, fires in the home are still one of the leading causes of death in the home. Fire safety is a crucial step to keeping your home safer and healthier.
- Have a smoke detector on every floor. Smoke detectors should be high on the wall or ceiling, and away from any doors or windows.
- Check your smoke detectors every year. Do it on the same day every year to make it easier to remember.
- Keep matches, lighters, and torches away from children.
- Have a plan in place and have a meeting to ensure everyone in the family knows the plan. Determine escape routes and review “what to do” if encountered with a house fire. A house fire can be very hectic and cause confusion so having a plan in place can be critical in keeping your family safe.
- Always set a timer when using the oven or stovetop so you don’t forget.
- Make sure curtains, drapes, and furniture are not to close or getting hot from nearby heaters, stovetops, or fireplaces.
- Always allow for heat-producing items to cool off before putting them away. This includes items like curling irons, blow dryers, portable fireplaces, toasters, and cooking pans.
- Don’t smoke inside. If you must, then make it a point to never smoke in bed.
- Have a fire extinguisher and make sure everyone knows where it is located and how to use it.
- Clean your dryer vent regularly.
- Make sure your water heater is never set to a temperature over 120 degrees.
- Have your HVAC equipment serviced annually!
Choking and Suffocation
Choking and suffocation are more prevalent in young children because they aren’t aware of the potential dangers. The loss of oxygen can result in long term brain damage or death. These hazards can be the trickiest, as it only a loose button or coin to cause a choking accident.
- Always watch young kids closely and never let them put anything in their mouth that is not designed for teething.
- Keep balloons and plastic bags away from infants
- Avoid clothes or decorations with strings or ribbons
- Don’t have dangling toys over the area they sleep
- If you see something on the floor pick it up! Anytime you walk past or notice a coin or marble be sure the pick it up right away. If you wait you’re likely to forget it’s even there.
- Don’t give young kids popcorn or hard candy.
- If you care for small children you should consider getting certified in CPR, as choking is the most preventable death in kids under 12 months old.