We all consider our homes to be the safest place for our children, but families are being urged to reduce accident risks to children around the home. Even though our homes may seem cosy and safe, research has shown that accidents in the home could be very dangerous—even fatal—for children.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is pushing for increased awareness of the risk, having run an annual Family Safety Week since 2014. Here is a breakdown of what you should be doing to keep your family safe at home.
Make sure your doors are secured inside and out
Most threats we consider are about people coming into our homes, but what about our children getting out of homes? Parents from Toronto, Canada discovered the risk after their three-year-old daughter woke in the middle of the night, unlocked the front door and walked to a nearby grocery store. Thankfully, police caught up with her before she came to any harm.
Securing your front door is not always a guarantee your family are safely contained inside. As this Banham guide to the different types of door locks explains, a thumbturn lock is one that can be operated from the inside without the use of a key. Usually these are installed for the purposes of safety, as they’re easier to unlock in an emergency without fumbling for keys. However, thumbturn door locks—also known as rosaries—are simple for kids to unlock and make a bid for freedom.
Having said that, it can be simple for young kids to escape from any type of door lock, even one that requires a key: they see you doing it all the time. The advice, then, is to install a second door lock, such as a simple chain or bolt, that is too high for a child to reach.
Don’t leave your children around water
Firefighters in Glendale, Arizona (US) have alerted parents to the risks associated with pools and open water as summer nears. Though it’s likely less of an issue here in the UK where it’s far more rare for homes to contain private swimming pools, it applies to garden paddling pools, ponds and is good advice for bathtubs too.
The Fire Department has established a simple ABC guide to help parents keep children safe around water. A stands for adult supervision, keeping a close eye on children at all times; B is for barriers, such as “Door locks, pool fences, things that keep kids out of the water,”; the final C stands for classes—that refers both to children’s swim classes and adults CPR classes in case of an emergency.
Of course, you should take the time to discuss the potential risks associated with open water with your children, and give them instruction on what to do in case of emergency. In home bathtubs and private pools alike, non-slip mats and stickers can help prevent a fall.
Beware of the kitchen
The kitchen is fraught with dangers, with a considerable number of home accidents taking place in the kitchen. Establish some ground rules with your children to help avoid accidents when you’re cooking, such as keeping a safe distance from the hob and oven when in use, and don’t allow pot handles to hang over the edge of cookers and worktop. The Hub suggests creating ‘off-limit’ zones.
Watch out for the dishwasher too. Dishwashers give children easy access to sharp knives and forks, while detergent can irritate children’s skin and eyes. Advice is to keep dishwashers securely closed when not loading/unloading, and to point knives, forks and other sharp items downward in the utensil basket.
Designate a safe area for dangerous kitchen items. A knife block is safer for your children—and you—than storing them in a drawer. Heavier items should also be stored on lower shelves, and shelving units themselves anchored to a wall to prevent them toppling over if your child attempts to scale them. While you’re at it, secure your appliances like fridges to a wall too.
When the kids are home alone
If you have older children, the risks outlined above might be less of a concern, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you should take to keep them safe in your home. If you feel comfortable allowing your child to stay home alone, here are some tips from the Red Cross to keep your child safe:
Before you leave, check that all cookers and other appliances are properly turned off and safe. Remove any dangerous or sharp tools such as power tools and razor blades, as well as bleach and strong detergents. If your children will need to prepare their own dinner etc, show them how to do so safely and consider chilled or microwaveable meals. If your burglar alarm allows you to do so, set it by zone to cover areas of your home that won’t be occupied.
Leave your children with details of emergency contacts and practice routines for what to do in the event of a fire, blackout or other scenario that might put them at risk. Keep a first aid kit handy and stocked. Designate a neighbour to contact, and ask that neighbour to keep an eye out too. Remind your children not to inform callers that they are home alone. Similarly, make sure they know not to post anything about being left unsupervised on social media or internet chat rooms.