Beware of the dangers in your home
Safety in the Home
Accidents in the home account for a huge proportion of serious injuries around the world every day. They can have devastating consequences and yet, for the most part, can be avoided with the minimum of care. If you want to protect your family, here are a few ideas that should help.
Falls are among the most common of accidents that occur in the home. Ladders, of course, are leading culprits. Home handymen use ladders when carrying out roof repairs, clearing gutters and trimming trees. All too frequently they don’t secure the ladder properly or try to stand it on soft or uneven ground. The result is that the ladder is unstable. Handymen also often try to overreach rather than climb down and move the ladder. Instability and overreaching can both lead to falls.
These falls can be avoided by using a little common sense. If possible, secure the ladder properly so that it can’t move and make sure that the ground it stands on is even and stable. Try to avoid working alone; a helper can, if necessary, hold the ladder, keep other people and pets from knocking the ladder and, in the event the worst does happen, will be on hand to raise the alarm.
Small stepladders can be equally dangerous, perhaps even more so because they seem so innocuous. If your stepladder is improperly positioned when you are trying to change a light bulb, reach something on a high shelf or cleaning windows, it is easy to overbalance and fall. And the same applies if you are using a chair to stand on. With care, such accidents are easy to avoid and save yourself a lot of pain.
You can just as easily fall even if you have both feet on the ground. Showers and bathtubs can get very slippery but use of a non-slip covering can reduce the risk. Water on tiled floors poses similar dangers and a non-slip mat could save you from a nasty fall.
Stairs, too, can be an accident waiting to happen. The elderly and children are particularly vulnerable. A strong handrail is an obvious requirement and to prevent small children falling on the stairs it is worthwhile fitting a safety gate top and bottom.
Your home is filled with potentially dangerous poisons. Your medicine cabinet contains a number of substances that could prove deadly, particularly to small children who might be tempted to try those attractively coloured pills. In the kitchen and bathroom, too, you keep harmful chemicals for cleaning and disinfecting your home. You need to be sure that all these are safely secured so that your little ones can’t get at them. And don’t forget your garage or shed, where you keep your insecticides, weed-killers and other garden chemicals that might be lethal to humans.
Fire is particularly destructive. Not only can it cause horrific injuries, but it can also completely destroy your home and with it irreplaceable items close to your heart. Many fires are readily avoidable with the right precautions; you just need to be aware of where they might start.
Fires that begin with an electrical fault are probably among the hardest to prevent because short circuits and other faults are often hard to spot before it’s too late. But if you regularly check your wiring and appliances then you will substantially reduce the risk. The same is true of gas. By regularly checking gas fittings and tubing for leaks and wear, you stand a much better chance of avoiding a gas fire.
Cooking poses a significant fire risk. Fat can splash and catch fire or if you get called away you might forget to return to your cooking with similar results. The solution, as usual, is to take care and be vigilant.
Smokers also need to be particularly careful. It is all too easy to relax with a cigarette and nod off, leaving your lit cigarette to set light to the furniture – and maybe you with it.
Most homes, even if there is no smoker resident, will have a cigarette lighter, fire lighter or matches. These often present a fatal attraction for children and should be kept secure, where children cannot get at them.
One inexpensive measure that all homeowners should take to ensure the safety of their family is to install smoke alarms. These inexpensive devices detect smoke and emit a loud, piercing sound to alert everyone in the house to the possibility that there is a fire, giving you and your family a precious chance to get outside and out of danger.
Guns and sharp objects
In countries where private gun ownership is reasonably common, improperly secured guns can pose a serious hazard in the home. Sometimes it is too easy for children to get hold of a parent’s gun and start to play. Guns must be kept securely locked up (most countries have very strict legislation in this respect) and, in my opinion, ammunition should be kept in a separate secure place.
Knives, scissors, needles and other sharp objects are commonplace and it is all too easy for them to fall into the hands of children. As with other dangerous objects, they should be kept somewhere inaccessible to small children.
Electric shocks can cause anything from a short sharp pain to death. And yet, like so many other accidents, they can easily be avoided. For simple jobs like changing a light bulb, make sure that the switch is off and if you are planning to open up an electrical appliance to find a fault turn it off first. For more complicated jobs, get a qualified electrician, but if you must try the job yourself then turn the electricity off at the switchboard and check that you have thrown the right switch before starting work.
Also, little children love to poke things into small holes and unused electric sockets are an irresistible attraction. But you can prevent any risk to your little ones by using a plug blank. These inexpensive accessories, simple fit into the socket like an ordinary plug but present a blank face to the outside. If you need to use the socket, just remove the blank and the socket becomes available for use.
The garden or yard
The garden or yard should be a place for your children to have fun, but you need to be aware of the dangers that lurk there. If you have a pool, ensure that it is fenced so that children cannot fall in. Also make sure that your children cannot run out into the road by making sure that their play area is secure. And lock away those garden tools; a pruning saw left for someone to scratch themselves on can leave a nasty wound while a garden rake left laying down with forks upwards can cause a puncture in the foot if anyone treads on it.
Motor vehicles cause a surprising number of accidents in the home. All to often, drivers leave their vehicles without first applying the parking brake; this means that there is potential for the vehicle to roll and injure anyone who gets in its path, particularly children. Drivers also sometimes leave their keys in the vehicle, which is an open invitation for children to climb in and start it as they try to emulate grown-ups.
An alarming number of children also get struck by vehicles entering or leaving driveways. Drivers simply don’t look carefully or their view is obstructed by shrubs, hedges or garden fences. Many of these accidents occur when the vehicle is reversing so extra care should be taken then.
Your home can be safe
You might be beginning to think that your home is a hotbed of danger when it should be a place of safety. But don’t worry; there is no need to be unduly alarmed. Now that you are aware of the potential dangers, you can take steps to counter them. Common sense is your best defence, so think carefully and make your home the safe haven that it should be.