Home Safety Hazards
A study was performed by The Home Safety Council to determine the most common types of injuries found in homes and who was most likely to be injured in these scenarios. Although their are thousands of ways to injure ones self at home, The Home Safety Council picked the top 5.
People with the highest rate of injury are children and older adults.
- Choking and Suffocation
The simplest of hazards ends up being one of the worst. And as you would suspect, falls are worse for young children and older adults. Very few deaths from falls occur in adults under 60. For children, the most severe falls are general associated with three products: baby walkers, windows, and play equipment including trampolines. Falls down stairs have been implicated in 75% -96% of baby walker-related falls.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent people in your home from falling:
- Put window guards on all windows. New regulations and free window guard programs in New York City have resulted in a 50% reduction in falls and 35% reduction in deaths.
- Put soft, protective surfaces under play equipment.
- Pay special attention to staircases. Make sure that they have handrails, are well lighted, do not have any loose carpeting, and are always clear of toys and other items.
- Use safety gates both at the top and bottom of staircases if children are in the house.
- If you have a dark basement, install a light on the staircase and paint your bottom step a bright color to make it more visible.
- Always clear outdoor steps of ice and snow as soon as possible.
- Look out for pets: According to the Center for Disease Control, Pets cause more than 86,000 fall-related injuries each year.
- Make your shower safe: use non-slip rubber mats and install extra rails or grab bars if necessary. Also, make sure that the existing rails and other supports are in good condition and can support your weight.
- Make sure that you always use (and have!) sturdy step stools when getting things in the kitchen or out of closets.
- Do not allow children under six years old to climb on bunk beds.
- If you have small children, install locks on all cabinets and drawers so that they won’t be able to climb them.
- Require children who are riding skateboards or bikes on your property to always wear approved helmets.
While we mostly think of poisoning as something that happens to children when they get into cleaning supplies and other household products, it’s something that actually affects people of all ages. You would probably be surprised to hear that most unintentional deaths by poisoning in the home are due to the following:
- Appetite depressants
- Anesthetics like cocaine
- Also, amphetamines, caffeine, antidepressants, alcohol, and motor vehicle exhaust gas.
Most of these methods of unintentional poisoning are for the most part self-inflicted and can only resolved by dealing with a person’s underlying chemical dependency issues. That said, effective prevention efforts generally focus on keeping poison out of the hands of children. While adults have the highest rates of fatal poisonings, children under 5 have the largest rates of non-fatal poisoning.
Here are some of the things that children are most often poisoned by:
- Household and cleaning products
- Personal care and beauty products
- Carbon monoxide
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent accidental poisonings in your home:
- Place your chemicals high up on shelves rather than down low under kitchen and bathroom sinks where people commonly put them. If possible, store them out in a garden shed outside of the house.
- If you have to put chemicals in low cabinets, use baby proof locks and be sure that you can properly close the doors.
- Never put household cleaners in old drink bottles or food containers that might confuse a child.
- Get children and pets out of a room before you use pesticides or other chemicals.
- Always close the packaging on a medication or chemical if you are interrupted by the phone or the doorbell. Many poisonings happen when an adult leaves the room for a minute.
- Don’t trust that childproof packaging on medications will keep children safe. The best defense is to keep the medications out of children’s hands in the first place.
- Don’t (obviously) store medications on easy to reach tables or counter tops.
- Be aware of where all of the medications in your home are, especially if you have visitors who might leave them in an open purse or bag.
- Get rid of any old watch type batteries as children can easily swallow them. Consider getting rid of any toys or gadgets that use them.
What should you do if someone does get poisoned?
Call your doctor and poison control (1-800-222-1222) immediately!
As with poisonings and falls, the death rate is highest amongst senior citizens and children under the age of five noticing a pattern here?
And while you may just be thinking that burns just come from open flames, a huge percentage of burns are actually caused by hot water.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent fires and burns in your home:
- Most people have their water heater at a much higher temperature than necessary. If the temperature is so high that a child (or adult) can be burned when simply washing his or her hands it’s on too high. Keep your water heater at a low temperature of 120 degrees.
- Use the back burners on the stove when possible. Children can’t reach them and there’s less of a chance of a hot pot getting knocked off of the stove.
- Keep candles and other open flames out of reach of children.
- According to Meri-K Appy, the president of the Home Safety Council, Cooking mishaps are the number one cause of fires [and they often happen] when the cook leaves the stove unattended or becomes distracted. That said, stay focused in the kitchen and never walk away from a pot that is in use.
- Install smoke alarms throughout your home. Half of the fire related deaths occurred in the 5% of homes that don’t have fire alarms.
- Regularly test the batteries in your smoke alarm to be sure that it works. Of homes that have smoke alarms, 65% of the homes have non-working alarms. Most often this is simply because of a worn out battery.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
- Keep clothes irons and curling irons out of reach of children and don’t balance them precariously on counters or ironing boards. Teach children that irons and curling irons can remain hot even after they have been unplugged.
- Keep space heaters at least three feet away from flammable things like curtains and clothing.
- Regularly clean chimneys and dryer exhausts as buildup in both can cause fires.
- Don’t cook and hold a small baby or child at the same time.
- Don’t eat or drink anything hot while a baby or small child is sitting on your lap.
What to do if there is a fire?
For kitchen fires: Always keep the pot lid handy. In the event of a fire, pop the lid back on the pot (or use a cookie sheet) to prevent the fire from spreading. Baking soda is also effective in stopping a fire (it deprives the fire of oxygen).
For whole house fires: Have an escape plan and discuss it with everyone who lives there. Choose a meeting spot outside of the home so that you can meet up and be sure that everyone has made it out safely.
How to treat a burn
If it is a first-degree burn where only the first layer of skin has been affected, do the following:
- Hold it under cool water or place it in cool water for 10-15 minutes to reduce swelling. Do not ice it.
- Loosely wrap the wound in a sterile gauze bandage.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medication if necessary.
For all other burns, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
Choking & Suffocation
The three main types of obstructed airway injuries are:
Suffocation: when the nose and mouth are obstructed by an external item like a plastic bag.
Because they have limited mobility, infants are at a huge risk for suffocation. 60% of infant suffocation occurs in beds and cribs when an infant’s face becomes buried in soft bedding or a pillow or an adult rolls on top of them.
Choking: when something blocks the airways internally.
This is usually from bits of food or parts of toys. Children, who don’t always chew their food properly, are especially at risk for choking on small, round foods that perfectly block the airway.
Strangulation: when there is some sort of external compression around the airway from an object like the chord from a blind.
Children easily get things wrapped around their necks like drawstrings, ribbons, necklaces, pacifier strings, and window blind cords. An average of one child a month dies due to strangulation from a window chord.
Children can also easily become strangled by openings that trap their heads like spaces in furniture, cribs, playground equipment, and strollers.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent choking and suffocation in your home:
- Don’t place an infant facedown on a soft surface like a waterbed, comforter, or pillow or on a mattress that is covered in plastic.
- Keep your infant’s crib free of soft items like blankets, pillows, bumpers, and stuffed animals.
- Purchase a crib mattress that fits snugly without any spaces on the sides where your baby can get stuck. Also, make sure that the sheets fit the mattress snugly and won’t get wrapped around your baby’s head.
- An infant should not sleep in an adult’s bed, especially if adults are in it. Infants should also not sleep in the same bed as other children.
- Make sure that crib bars are spaced so that a child cannot get his or her head stuck in-between them.
- Infants should also not sleep on couches, chairs, or other soft surfaces.
- Keep all plastic bags out of reach of children. That includes shopping bags, sandwich bags, and dry cleaning bags.
- Keep uninflated balloons out of reach of young children and dispose of the pieces if they break.
- Put child resistant locks on any airtight spaces that a child could climb into like a freezer.
- Have kids sit and chew their food thoroughly when eating so that they are less likely to swallow food whole.
- During adult parties, make sure that nuts and other foods are quickly cleaned up and inaccessible.
- Make sure that kids under four don’t have access to hard, smooth foods that can block their airway like nuts, sunflower seeds, cherries, raw carrots, popcorn, etc.. Also be careful with soft foods like cheese cubes, hot dogs, and grapes. Make sure to always cut them into small pieces.
- Regularly, get down on your hands and knees to inspect play areas for small choking hazards that are within grabbing range like pieces of toys, coins, balloons, balls, batteries, jewelry, etc.. Also check in couch cushions.
- Frequently check toys for loose or broken parts.
- Make sure that all window treatment cords are tied down and that the ends are cut so that they do not end in a loop. Better yet, replace them with cordless designs.
- Don’t put necklaces or headbands on your infant.
- Cut all drawstrings out of your child’s hoods, jackets, waistbands, etc..
- Don’t leave babies unattended in strollers as they can become tangled in the straps and strangle themselves.
- Make sure that an infant child cannot get his or her head stuck between the slats of their crib. Also make sure that mattress and bedding fits snugly.
- Never tie a pacifier around your baby’s neck or otherwise attach it to their clothing.
- Don’t hang things like bags or purses on a crib.
- Always remove your infant’s bib after mealtimes.
While most drownings don’t occur in the home, of those that do, 80% involve children ages 4 and under and most of these occur in swimming pools and bathtubs. Still, drownings are the fifth leading cause of home injury death in the US.
A few interesting facts about home drownings:
- One third of unintentional home drownings occur in bathtubs and almost half occur in other locations including swimming pools.
- More than half of all drownings among infants (under age 1) occur in bathtubs. Another 12% of drowning in this age group occurs in buckets.
- More than half of drownings among children ages 1 to 4 are pool related.
- Most children who drown in swimming pools had been missing from their parent’s sight for less than five minutes.
As far as pools go, the only solution that has proven effective in preventing the drowning of young children is four-sided fencing around the pool. That fencing should also include a self-closing and self-latching gate or door.
Here are a few things that you can do to prevent drowning in your home:
- Keep the gated fence that protects your swim area locked at all times so that children and others won’t accidentally fall into the water.
- Make sure all drain covers are intact and in place every time you use your pool. The powerful suction in the swimming-pool drain can keep even strong adults underwater. Hair and bathing suits on children can get caught in the drain causing them to be pulled under. If a cover is broken or missing, replace it before allowing anyone in.
- Never leave a baby alone in a bathtub for any amount of time. Also never leave young children alone in a tub.
- Keep your toilet lid down and keep young children out of the bathroom unsupervised.
- Do not keep open containers in the yard or around the house that can fill with water.
- Keep hot tubs covered and make sure that the cover stays in place.
- Refrain from using prescription drugs and alcohol when using bathtubs or swimming pools. Closely monitor any adults who are using prescription drugs or alcohol and insist on getting in a pool or bathtub.