Whether you are an expectant parent, parents of little ones or a new homebuyer, significant life changes can be exciting. During this time of joy and anticipation, it may be easy to overlook home hazards lurking throughout your home, though. Unfortunately, everyday items in houses may pose a potential danger to children, adults or even our pets. The good news is, with a bit of extra preparedness, you can keep potential danger away and maintain a safe haven for all household members and guests.
Are you having an emergency?
First and foremost, if you are having a medical emergency, or someone in your household is, the most important thing to do is call 911 immediately, even if you are uncertain if you need additional help.
If you have questions about specific hazards in your home, several resources are available to answer frequently asked questions. Here is a list of common emergency numbers and who to reach out to for specialized help.
Family safety fast facts
Maintaining a safe home takes effort, but it is well worth it to prevent accidents and create a safe environment for everyone. Accidents in the home are actually more common than you may think. Consider these alarming statistics:
- Over 12,000 children die each year from unintentional injury, ages 0 to 19. (Center for Disease Control)
- For younger children, ages one to four, the most common cause of death is drowning.(Center for Disease Control)
- For children ages 0 to 19, deaths due to injuries in the home were mostly due to suffocation, poisoning (both with drugs and chemicals), falls, choking, drowning and fire.(National Safety Council)
Expect the unexpected
As a homeowner or renter, one of your primary responsibilities is to protect yourself and others from potential hazards throughout your property. If you remove as many dangers as possible, you are much more likely to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring in the first place. One prevention method is properly maintaining major systems, such as plumbing and electrical. It is a good idea to have major systems checked by a certified professional to provide quality repairs and maintenance. Maintaining your landscaping is another critical area to focus on. Not only do you possibly increase the value of your home by taking care of the yard, but you can prevent possible accidents caused by a system failure or overgrown foliage.
Keeping your homeowners or renters insurance up-to-date is another important responsibility. If any accidents occur in or around your home, a comprehensive policy provides financial protection for you.
Child safety hazards throughout the house
The following is a list of child safety hazards throughout the house. Some of which you walk past daily and may or may not realize are potential accidents waiting to happen.
A sharp object can cause major damage to the head or body if you or someone else falls on it or accidentally bumps into it. Everyday sharp objects include furniture and fireplace edges, fireplace tools, cutlery including knives, cabinet doors, scissors, drinking glasses and bowls. You can prevent these types of accidents by keeping sharp objects out of reach or adding childproof measures, such as a silicone protectant.
But equally dangerous are sharp objects we do not always immediately think of. For instance, grilling tools left out, razors used by adults, paper shredders, the edges of mirrors and grooming tools like clippers and nail scissors all need to be stored away and kept out of small hands.
Cleaners and chemicals are not just found under the kitchen sink but throughout the home and garage. If you keep hazardous cleaners in your home or garage, it is critical to lock them up or place them in childproof containers to prevent possible poisoning. You can also use stickers, such as the Mr.Yuk from the Pittsburgh Poison Center, to provide a visual cue that something contains a dangerous chemical.
Bleach is a chemical often associated with cleaning, and it is one of the more common dangerous chemicals and definitely one to keep out of reach. Other hazardous substances around the home include nail polish remover, spot cleaners, antifreeze, brake fluid, toilet and surface cleaners and motor oil. You should also keep chemical strippers, insecticides and lawn chemicals locked away and out of reach.
Furniture may not immediately come to mind when you think of dangerous objects. Still, the possibility of tipping over, lead paint in old furniture or safety recalls are all very real. Carefully review each piece of furniture to see if further steps can be taken to secure the piece in place or if it needs to be removed altogether. For example, use anti-tip brackets or straps to further secure furniture to the walls and help prevent tip-overs. If you have furniture or vintage toys made prior to 1978, it is possible they contain lead and should be removed from the house.
Large appliances and televisions are also very heavy and can fall over easily. Therefore, televisions should be kept on a broad base and strapped down or secured against the wall.
Electrical outlets are a significant home hazard, especially for children. Not only is it enticing for kids to stick objects inside the outlets, but if tiny wet hands come in contact with an outlet, it can lead to accidental shock. Purchasing childsafe receptacles from home improvement stores or covering them with plastic covers helps prevent possible shock.
Cords, such as electrical and cable, are another electrical danger and should be shortened as much as possible. You can also hang loose cords out of reach to make sure kids are not tempted to grab, bite or chew any of these cords. Overloaded outlets are a potential fire hazard and should be prevented. Make sure only to use the recommended wattage and only have one plug in a socket at a time.
Radiators may be needed around your home for warmth, but they pose a serious risk of body burns if careful attention is not paid to them. Prevent body burns by installing approved covers or screens over radiators and other household heating devices, such as steam pipes. You could install a screen or playpen gate to avoid having children come in contact with the radiator.
Plants in the backyard and the house
Chemicals and cleaners may be the obvious poisonous materials around your house, but household plants pose an equal threat. Several plants, if ingested, are toxic to children and pets. Less severe reactions may include irritation of the skin. The best way to prevent possible poisoning is to eliminate poisonous plants from your house.
Toxic plants include poinsettias, peace lilies, lilies, philodendron, aloe vera, arrowhead plant, English ivy, devil’s ivy, daffodils and mistletoe. If you are unsure if your favorite plant is poisonous to humans or pets, contact the poison control center and describe the plant in question — they will help you identify the poisoning potential.
Child safety hazards room by room
Another strategy for evaluating the safety of your home is to examine possible hazards room by room. Here are the most common areas where you are likely to find issues that need to be addressed.
While your backyard can be an oasis, it is also an area with possible safety risks. If you have a pool in your backyard, drowning is the number one concern. An average of 3,536 unintentional drownings occurred each year in the United States from 2005 to 2014, according to the CDC. One in five of these drownings occurred with someone 14 or younger. Installing alarms and a fence around the pool are two methods to make the pool area safer. In addition, stay as diligent with kiddie pools as you do with adult pools and make sure they are emptied when not in use since drowning can occur in only one inch of water.
Another backyard risk is unattended swing sets and jungle gyms. Watching kids closely while using the equipment is one way to prevent falls and injuries. Keep an eye out for any objects left in the yard that pose a potential hazard, too, such as sharp-edged barbecue tools and equipment, garden tools, garden pesticides or lawn equipment. All potential hazards should be locked away to prevent injury or accidental poisoning.
Garages pose numerous safety hazards for children, but each one is entirely preventable. Tools pose a threat since they may cause physical harm, so make sure to lock them up or place them on a high shelf out of reach. Be equally cautious with shelving and make sure it is not placed anywhere it can be pulled down. And do not weigh shelves down with heavy objects either.
If you keep chemicals in the garage, such as antifreeze, lawn care, pesticides, motor oil or batteries, keep them locked away and well out of reach.
A special note on cars
Sadly, hundreds of children die each year from heatstroke from either accidentally gaining access to a vehicle or being left in a hot car by a caregiver. So keep your car doors locked, even while in the garage, to prevent the accidental entrapment of a curious child.
Bathroom and laundry room
Bathrooms are another source of danger in your home, especially with possible exposure to poisonous substances. Be sure to keep all prescription drugs locked away and well out of reach of children. If you no longer need the medication or it has expired, properly dispose of it before it becomes a hazard for someone else in the house. Keep cleaners out of reach, too, in the same manner as you would in your kitchen or laundry room. Toilets also present the potential for accidental drownings, but you can install latches on the toilet seats to prevent a child from reaching the water.
The laundry room should be thoroughly inspected for potential dangers as well. All cleaning products should be stored out of reach or locked away. Keep items such as laundry cleaning pods in childproof packaging and far out of reach. Do not forget about the appliances either. Make sure your washer and dryer are secure and not in danger of tipping over.
Lastly, keeping the lint trap cleaned out is critically important for preventing house fires and simply removing excess lint from the trap after each use prevents this common cause of household fires. You should also have your dryer vents blown out at least once per year.
The kitchen is not only one of the busiest areas of the house; it also contains numerous safety hazards. You will want to pay close attention to big and small items, from your large appliances to small sharp objects. Appliances pose a danger of burns and from tip-overs, but both are preventable.
Set up a “safety zone” within a few feet of your oven and instruct children to stay out of the surrounding area. You should also ensure your appliances are secured to the wall and install safety latches to cabinets and appliances to keep children out. And never leave cookware unattended with a handle within reach; instead, use back burners as much as possible and keep a close eye on the cooking action.
It is also essential to put away all items with sharp edges, from knives and cutlery to graters and mandolins. Keep these items stored high enough where little arms and legs can not come in contact with these sharp edges and do not leave them in an open dishwasher, either.
Cleaning supplies are commonplace under a kitchen sink but should be stored in higher-up places, or the cabinet should be locked. Beyond the cleaning supplies, items such as white vinegar and spices are equally harmful if ingested, so be sure to store them in a secure, unreachable place for kids or secure them in a latched cabinet.
The kitchen floor is a magnet for dirt and pieces of food. Cleaning debris quickly off the floors provides a clean environment, and it keeps food and objects out of the mouths of little ones.
While there are numerous obvious and hidden dangers around the house, taking time to evaluate and prevent potential accidents is a safety measure well worth taking.
This article written by Sara Coleman, Insurance Contributor and republished with permission from Bankrate. View our other blog posts related to Safety Culture.