For most, the word "home" conjures up feelings of safety, warmth, and security. After spending heaps of time, money, and efforts into buying or renting a home, people are often too exhausted to even begin thinking about how to prevent hazards or accidents. The truth is, most mishaps at home can be easily prevented, which is why it's so important to take the necessary -- and often fairly simple -- measures to do so. This is especially the case for families with young children or seniors. The last thing you want is to be confronted with a dangerous situation and find that it is too late to do something about it.
Like many things, home safety begins with awareness. This guide is designed to help homeowners identify and reduce hazard risks in their residences. Specifically, we will go over the top home hazards that exist, methods for cultivating a safer home, household toxins, and the dangers that kids and older adults face.
Awareness alone is not enough to keep your family safe, but it will get you started. Once you are familiar with the various home hazards and how to prevent them, you can then invest time and put forth some elbow grease to make it come to life.
Insight from Industry Experts
Before delving into the specifics on how to identify and prevent home hazards, let's see what the experts in the industry have to say:
Shocking Statistics on Home Hazards
While home hazards are totally preventable, they are also the cause for many injuries and deaths. In case you were wondering...
In 2014, more than 2 million poisoning incidents were reported to poison control centers nationwide.
1/5 older adults who fall sustain a broken bone or head injury.
Choking is the USA's fourth largest cause of accidental death. There were nearly 5,000 victims in 2014.
In the past decade, deaths from drowning in a bathtub have gone up 70%.
More than 365,000 fires blazed US homes in 2015, causing smoke damage, completely destroyed homes, and deaths.
Falls account for over 40% of all non-fatal injuries that occur at home.
Most Common Home Hazards and How to Prevent Them
There are countless home hazards that exist. Below are the leading causes for accidents & unintentional home injuries, and some tips on how to make your home safer.
While falling may seem like a simple hazard, it comes with many painful consequences. As you might imagine, falls are especially detrimental to young children and seniors aged 60 and up. Some of the common products at home that are often associated with severe falls include baby walkers, playground equipment like trampolines, and windows.
Prevent household members from falling by implementing the following measures:
Keep the ﬂoors dry to prevent any slipping especially in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Always have on hand sturdy step stools to use when reaching for things in closets or the top kitchen cabinets.
If you have kids at home, use safety gates to close oﬀ the staircases.
Use soft and protective mats under play equipment.
Teach kids under 6 years of age to avoid climbing on bunk beds.
Add non-slip rubber mats in your bathroom to avoid slipping after a shower.
If your house is more than one story high, you'll want to make sure that staircases are well-lit, are clear of clutter, do not have any loose carpeting, and have the appropriate handrails.
Dark basements should be well-lit. Install a light on the stairway getting up to it, and consider painting the steps a brighter color so that it is more visible.
Be wary of pets if you have any, as one could easily trip over them and fall.
If you live somewhere where it snows often, you'll want to clear your outdoor steps as soon as possible. Grip tape is your best friend to make surfaces less slippery!
Cabinets and drawers should be secured from toddlers and young children.
Require children riding bikes or skateboards to wear approved helmets at all times.
Make sure there are enough lights installed throughout your home so people are less likely to fall due to not being able to see clearly.
Keep the ﬂoors dry to prevent any slipping especially in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Fires & Burns
Contrary to simple logic, open ﬂames are not the main cause of ﬁres and burns. Improperly wired electrical and hot water are often the culprit in serious home hazards. Overall, ﬁres and burns account for a third of accidental deaths at home, while also being the ninth largest cause of injuries at home that end up with emergency room visits.
There are many simple things that you can do and keep in mind to prevent most of the common reasons for home injuries from ﬁres and burns:
Keep candles and other sources of open ﬂames out of reach of children and away from anything ﬂammable. If possible, opt for flameless candles.
When cooking, try not to become distracted as cooking mishaps are the number one cause of ﬁres, and a ﬁre is most likely to occur when the stove is unattended.
Use the back burners of stoves so that children can't accidentally knock over the pot or grab something hot.
Keep chimneys and dryer exhausts free of ﬂammable buildup or poor ventilation by cleaning them regularly.
Install and maintain fire alarms throughout your home. Half of deaths caused by ﬁres happened in 5% of homes that did not have ﬁre alarms.
Inspect the batteries of ﬁre alarms often to make sure they are working.
During colder weather, keep space heaters at least a few feet away from anything flammable, like blankets, clothing, and curtains.
Keep ﬁre extinguishers in common areas like the kitchen, near the ﬁreplace, and near other sources of heat.
Keep the water heater at a low temperature of 120 degrees, when it is kept at a higher temperature then children could get burned by the water when they wash their hands.
Be sure to keep curling and clothes irons out of reach of children, and away from ledges, electrical wiring and ﬂammable materials.
It is important to keep in mind that most drownings at home involve children who have been out of their parent's sight for less than ﬁve minutes. Drownings are the ﬁfth leading cause of home injury deaths in the states, with 80% of drowning victims being children under the age of 4. One third of drownings occur in the bathtub, with half occurring elsewhere like in the swimming pool.
The chance of drownings at a home can be signiﬁcantly reduced by taking the following precautions:
Four sided fencing with a self closing and self latching gate around the pool is the only proven solution to prevent children from wandering unattended into the pool. Check your local laws to ensure your pool gate is up to code.
Keep the gate locked at all times to further ensure children can't easily wander into deep water.
Never leave babies or toddlers alone in the bathtub.
Do not leave large open containers of water in the yard or in the house unattended (like cleaning buckets or kiddie pools). 12% of drownings of children under 1 years of age occur in buckets.
Hot tubs should always be covered, and the cover securely in place as to not slip oﬀ easily.
Check and replace all drain covers in a pool, they have powerful suction that can keep even adults underwater if a drain cover is broken or removed entirely.
Do not interact with pools or bathtubs when consuming alcohol or prescription drugs.
Choking & Suffocating
Obstructed airways is the leading cause of death for children under one year of age. It is the fourth leading cause of accidental home injury deaths in the country. Obstructed airways are divided into three main types - suﬀocation, choking, and strangulation.
60% of infant suffocation happens at home in their beds or cribs when a pillow, blanket, or adult rolls over on them in their sleep which blocks their nose and mouth from breathing. Suffocation can be prevented by taking these steps:
Keep infants face up on soft surfaces like beds and comforters.
Put child resistant locks on any air tight spaces like fridges to be sure a child doesn't crawl in and get stuck.
Cribs should have bars that are spaced in a way so that a child cannot get their head stuck between them.
Plastic bags should all be kept out of a child's reach, as they could get wrapped around their head and suﬀocate themselves.
Do not keep anything overly soft in a crib, that the baby could fall into and get stuck with their airways obstructed.
Choking is diﬀerent from suﬀocation in that it involves something obstructing their airway internally, like a part of a toy or piece of food stuck in a person's throat. Prevent choking issues at home by considering these precautions:
Make sure children chew their food thoroughly and don't try to swallow large bites. Furthermore, parents should cut up a child's food into consumable and appropriately sized pieces that are small enough that it cannot cause choking.
Inspect toys and stuﬀed animals for small pieces that could come oﬀ easily
Regularly check the ground for small items like bits of toys, hard foods, marbles, jewelry, and so on that could easily be choked on.
Any hard foods should not be given to children under 4 that are not cut up into smaller pieces, or food items like whole grapes that a child may think they can swallow whole.
Window cords are responsible for one child death a month on average, due to strangulation - any type of external compression around the airway. Keep these tips in mind to prevent strangulations in your home:
Keep all window cords tied down, with ends cut so they aren't a loop. It is best to get cordless blinds.
Necklaces and headbands should not be put on infants.
Bags and purses should not be hung on chairs or cribs or anywhere that a toddler could reach.
Paciﬁers should not be tied around a baby's neck or clothing.
Drawstrings in hoodies, waistbands, and other clothing items for your children should be cut.
Babies should not be unattended when they are in a stroller, as they could end up getting stuck in the straps and strangled.
Poisoning is something that aﬀects people of all ages, contrary to popular belief. Many feel that only younger children are susceptible to this because they are more likely to get themselves into cleaning supplies and other toxic household products, and overdose on vitamins and medicines if not taken under proper adult supervision. However, adults are also prone to poisoning from things like appetite suppressants, heroine, amphetamines, antidepressants, motor vehicle exhaust gas, anesthetics, and even caﬀeine and alcohol. While not visible, carbon monoxide poisoning is detrimental to everyone's health. These are just some of many diﬀerent poisons that are harmful to the human body!
The good news is, there are easy actions you can take to prevent accidental poisonings at home:
Keep all household cleaning supplies and other chemicals high up on shelves so that they are out of children's reach. If you have an outdoor garden or shed at home, it's better to keep these items here so that they are away from other common things like drinks at home that can be easily mistaken for toxic liquids.
If you need to use pesticides in any given room, make sure that your pets and other family members are out of that room before starting.
Similar to household cleaning supplies, medicines and vitamins should also be kept out of reach. Avoid placing them on counter tops or tables where kids can easily get to them.
Be careful with batteries -- not only are they poisonous, they are a huge choking risk. Kids are curious and may try to ingest them not knowing any better, especially if the battery is small like a watch battery.
If you have visitors over, make sure that they keep their medicines secure in their purse. Children are relentless sometimes and feel no shame in going through other people's personal belongings especially if bags are wide open!
Do not use old drink bottles or food containers to store household cleaners or other toxic chemicals. This can not only confuse a child, other adults at home who aren't aware can fall for it too.
If you are not able to keep chemicals high up and out of everyday reach, then you'll want to use locks to secure any lower cabinets you place them in.
Ensure that you close the packaging to any chemical or medication before leaving, even for just a minute.
Have children who love toys? Opt for toys that do not use batteries if possible.
For adults, a lot of accidental poisoning is self-inﬂicted. This means that it's important to be responsible with medications and only take them as prescribed by a physician.
Install a working carbon monoxide detector, which will alert you if the CO levels at home get dangerously high. Since carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, you most likely won't know that you and your family are at risk of CO poisoning until it's too late.
Turn oﬀ all gas stoves before walking away from the kitchen.
Keep paint out of reach. Many are lead based, and even if they are not, children should not be allowed to play with it freely.
On top of paying the rent/mortgage, bills, and housekeeping, keeping your residence safe is a responsibility that comes with home ownership. When the necessary measures are taken, residents will know how to handle hazards appropriately before or as they come up. Bear in mind that this guide is by no means a comprehensive one; it is merely designed to help homeowners identify and reduce risks of hazards at home. We recommend addressing the top hazards and working from there, honing in on certain preventable accidents that may take place in your home. You may even consider hiring a professional to come over and perform an assessment.
Below are some additional resources that may help you prevent accidents and reduce risks of home hazards:
This resource goes over the diﬀerent types of dangers in the home.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission provides ample information on the dangers of diﬀerent products that you may have in your residence.
Here, you will ﬁnd valuable tips on general emergency preparedness.
If you have a pool at home, it may be worthwhile to take a look at this website which includes pool safety guidelines for families.
Some products you have may have been recalled due to safety issues. You can search product names on this website and ﬁnd out which ones may be dangerous to use.
Home safety is especially important for your little ones! Learn more about how to keep your residence safe for children here.
Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 to speak to an expert if you think you or someone at home may be poisoned. It is free and conﬁdential.