Home Safety Tips

Creating a safe environment where your family can grow and thrive is a top priority.

There are several potentially serious safety hazards lurk around the average home, most of these concerns are easy to address.  Below are nine common safety hazards in the home to identify and simple solutions for keeping you and your loved ones out of harm’s way.

Watch out for these home safety hazards.

1. Falls
Injuries due to falls are one of the most common household hazards. In fact, one out of five older adults who fall incurs a broken bone or a head injury.  Wet floors, slippery stairs, and scattered toys all create the potential for falls.

Stabilize staircases
Make sure all staircases have solid handrails, securely affixed flooring, adequate lighting, and safety gates if there are small children in the home. Finally, be sure to keep the stairs clear of any tripping hazards. It’s tempting to put things like laundry near the stairs to put away on your next trip up or down, but those can also be easy to pass up and trip over when you’re in a rush.

Clear outdoor steps
Keep all outside stairs clear of debris and hazards like water, ice, and snow. Secure fix mats in place or use grip tape to make surfaces less slippery.  Clean off these areas periodically to ensure they are free of debris, algae, or other items that may cause an individual to slip.

Cover slippery surfaces in bathrooms
Secure your rugs to avoid slipping and to prevent water from pooling on slick surfaces. Non-slip stickers are a particularly effective way to keep everyone in your home from slipping in the shower.  Place outdoor rugs to allow individuals an opportunity to clean the bottom of shoes or feet to reduce the likely hood of slipping inside the home.

Install supports showers and bathtubs
Install safety rails to help family members old and young safely get in and out of the shower. You can add more than one to provide extra support to older family members and others who need additional help.

Corral toys
Even a small toy can be a tripping hazard. Give the kids a straightforward way to clean up and make sure every playdate ends without injury. Secure small toys, skateboards, bikes, and other mobile toys in a safe area where family members and visitors won’t trip on them.

2. Fires
In 2018, there were more than 363,000 fires in US homes, causing everything from mild smoke damage to total devastation, including the loss of 3,655 lives.  Even candles or an unattended iron can lead to accidental fires in your home, but there is plenty that you can do to prevent a home fire from getting out of hand.

Install fire alarms
Install fire alarms on all levels of your home, and check and change the batteries at least annually for a reliable fire safety response. 

Buy a fire extinguisher or fire blanket
Keep at least one fire extinguisher in your home—and check it annually to make sure it’s in good working order. Keep a multi-purpose ABC fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen, garage, or near the fireplace. Another alternative is to use fire blankets as they can suffocate a small fire or be used as an exterior barrier around a person to escape a home that may be on fire.  There should be at least one method available on each floor of the home to help control a fire.

Monitor candles
Never leave unattended candles or use them near loose cloth like drapes or blankets. Also, make sure this fire hazard stays out of reach of children and that pets can’t knock them over.

Unplug unused appliances
Avoid electrical fires by making sure that all appliances are in good working order and no wires are frayed. Don’t overload electrical outlets, either. In fact, it’s a smart electrical safety practice to unplug small appliances like toasters when not in use.

3. Carbon monoxide
Low exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) can cause headaches and dizziness, while elevated levels can lead to vomiting, impaired vision, and even death.  Carbon monoxide is virtually impossible to detect by smell, sight, or sound, making it a difficult threat to discern. But there are things you can do to ward off CO-related injuries.

Install a CO detector
You can help keep your family safe by installing a carbon monoxide detector that alerts you if CO reaches dangerous levels in your home.  These should be placed near areas where gas lines may be present and on each level of the home. 

Keep up with home maintenance
Prevent carbon monoxide leaks by having a professional service your HVAC system, water heater, and other appliances that use gas, oil, or coal at least once a year. If you’re buying an older home, have a professional inspect these systems before purchase so you can fix problems before moving in.

4. Choking
Choking is the fourth-largest cause of accidental death in the US, claiming over 5,000 victims in 2018.  From a bite of dinner going down the wrong way to a young one accidentally swallowing a small item, choking is scary. Educate yourself about choking hazards below, and take measures to keep your family safe.  It is always a good idea to have at least one adult trained in First Aid and CPR in the home.

Inspect toys
Regularly inspect toys for any loose parts. Scour floors for small toys or items where little hands might easily find them.

Keep choking hazards out of reach
Be sure to keep small, hard foods like nuts or candies out of reach of children. Pay special attention at adult gatherings where children can more easily sneak something unnoticed.

Monitor playtime
Even if your child is no longer an infant, a baby monitor can still come in handy. Use this gadget to view or listen in for signs of choking when children are playing in another room.

Cut up food
For children under the age of four, always cut up hard foods that can block airways. The same applies to softer foods like grapes, cherry tomatoes, and hot dogs. 

5. Cuts
This one seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately there are many common items with sharp edges inside and outside your home. Everything from an open food can to a garden hoe can be dangerous.

Protect Areas
Inspect areas inside and outside of the home where exposures to cut hazards may be present.  If possible try to relocate the item to a safe secure location or protect others from the concern.  Metal burs and edges can be removed by smoothing out the hazard with a metal file or sand paper.  You can also reduce the hazard by wrapping it with an insulator.  Ensure cutting tools are stored away from children.  Knives should always be sharpened, as a dull blade will cause the knife to possible slip of the item that is being cut and cause a laceration.  Always curl your fingers towards you that are holding the item to be cut 

6. Exposures to chemicals
There an numerous items throughout the home that can pose a hazard if an individual is exposed to them or ingests them.  Always secure these items properly by securing them from access by children.

Store medications properly
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can prove extremely hazardous to children and teens. Dispose of all unused medications properly, and never leave them out on a counter.  Keep them stored in a secure area/cabinet.
Keep paint out of reach
Even paint that isn’t lead based needs proper storage to stay out of reach of children. Never put paint in a container other than the one it came in. Otherwise, your child may mistake it for a drink or something else.  Always label any container that does not have a manufacturer label on it.

Secure all chemicals
Protect both children and pets from accidental poisoning by securing your cleaning supplies. Keep all household cleaners in a high cupboard with a safety lock to keep kids and animals from accidentally finding them. Lock up pesticides and items like turpentine in a cupboard or lockbox in the garage or shed.  If you transfer a chemical into a spray bottle or other container, always label the new container so that others know what is inside.  Never dispose of chemicals by pouring them down sanitary sewer systems.  (e.g. sinks, toilets, showers, bath tubs).

Put away personal care products
Keep all makeup, hair products, soaps, and other personal products out of the reach of children and pets. Use safety latches on all doors and drawers to help keep even the most determined youngsters out.

Lock up detergent
As with all household cleaners, lock laundry and dishwasher detergents out of reach of pets and kids. If you use detergent pods, make sure children don’t mistake them for candy. Never fill the soap dispenser until you’re ready to start a load and always check your dishwasher for leftover residue after each cycle.

7. Strangling
Cords on window dressings like blinds or curtains present a common strangling hazard to small children and infants.  Here are three ways you can help make your home safer for little ones.

Put away cords
Keep window and electrical cords out of reach of little ones. Never place a crib or bed under a window with dangling cords. If you use an extension cord, make sure to put it away after it’s no longer needed.

Trim or remove window cords
To keep children from tangling themselves up, trim cords to a length that is only accessible to the adults in the home. Better yet, trade out window treatments for designs without cords.

Wrap up blind cords
If you’re not ready to redecorate, you can make your home safe by installing blind cord wraps to your current window coverings.  

8. Drowning
Drowning isn’t only a risk when swimming or playing in water outside—it can also present a hazard in the home. On average, two-thirds of childhood drownings occur in a bathtub, so do your part to prevent drowning with these two tips:

Put away buckets
If you use buckets for cleaning, keep them empty and away from water sources. 

Attend to bathing children
It only takes a few inches of water for a child or infant to drown, so never leave a child alone in the bathtub, and always close the toilet lid.

9. Burns
Burns may not seem like a common household hazard, but they’re a risk whenever you use dishwashers, microwaves, stoves, or other heat sources. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can help ensure no one in your family feels the searing heat of a fresh burn.

Latch the dishwasher
Make sure your dishwasher latches securely to prevent curious fingers from opening the door, particularly at the end of a cycle when burns from steam are most likely to occur. 

Use the back burners
Most burns occur in the home and workplace, and children and women are most likely to suffer a burn in the kitchen.  To prevent burns, use the back burners on your stove when possible. This makes it difficult for kids to accidentally touch a hot stovetop. Never rest tempting items like cookies or toys on the stovetop, even when it’s not in use.

Add stove knob covers
Stoves—especially gas ones—are the perfect place for something to accidentally catch on fire. Protect your home from a potential fire by adding stove knob covers they keep small hands from turning on burners or grownups from inadvertently knocking burners to the “on” position.

Space Heaters
Never leave a space heater unattended.  Turn it off when you're leaving a room or going to sleep, and don't let pets or children play too close to a space heater.   Proper placement of space heaters is critical.  Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.  Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.  Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.  Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.  Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.

Final word
Nothing is more important than keeping your family safe. Knowing which precautions to take makes your job as family protector a little easier, but no one can be on duty all the time.  You may want to get some help protecting your loved ones with a monitored security system. Most current systems offer home automation and remote access so you can make sure everything is okay as often as you want.
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