Safety in the home : How to protect your family from home accidents

Safety in the home


Safety in the home

You may be surprised to learn that accidents in the home are a major public health issue, particularly for young children, whose curiosity can lead them to all sorts of dangers (Safety in the home).

But it takes only a handful of simple measures to protect your family.

for example, install smoke alarms, rehearse a fire drill, keep a well stocked first aid kit and check the house for anything that may cause problems.

Safety in the home

Fire drill


The medicine cabinet

DIY accidents

Child safety around the home

Fire drill

Make sure you have an alternative route of escape in the case of fire, and keep it clear of obstacles.

If your windows are barred, make sure that at least one can be opened with a key.

If you deadlock your doors at night, keep the key by your bedside.

A rehearsed fire exit plan can really help children survive a fire, as they are at high risk of smoke inhalation and asphyxiation.

To help them remember the fire drill, use phrases such as ‘Stop, drop and roll’ and ‘Get down low and go go go.

Install a smoke detector (see the box on ‘Smoke alarms’ below).

Make sure every member of the household who is old enough to make a phone call knows the fire emergency number.

Store fire control devices, such as a fire extinguisher, a bucket of sand and fire blanket, near the exit to the kitchen.

Never leave a pan of oil unattended on the heat. If there is a fire in the frying pan, do not move the pan.

Follow these steps.

1 If it is safe for you to do so, turn off the heat.

2 Smother the flames by covering the pan with a close-fitting lid, fire blanket, bucket of sand or damp cloth.

Never use water or an ordinary fire extinguisher to put out an oil fire.

3 Do not touch the pan for another 30 minutes.

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms give an early warning of fire, the chance to escape and an earlier opportunity to call the fire brigade.

They are inexpensive and very easy to install.

Fire safety experts recommend that at least one, preferably two, smoke alarms be installed per household; install one near the entrance to the kitchen.

Make sure you regularly change the batteries and check your smoke alarms are working.

Scalds (Safety in the home)

Hot water burns like fire.

Make sure that hot water — whether it’s in a cup, kettle or saucepan — is well out of reach of young children.

Reducing the temperature of your hot water to 50°C (122°F) greatly lowers the risk of scalds.

it takes only 1 second for a major burn at 60°C (140°F), 10 seconds at 55°C (131°F), yet 5 minutes at 50°C (122°F).

If you can’t alter the temperature of your hot water, install mixing valves or other devices that limit the temperature of water at the tap (Safety in the home).

Read more in the next page


If an accident does occur, follow these steps.

Every second counts!

Immediately cool the scalded skin either in or under cool running tap water for at least 20 minutes.

Do not attempt to remove anything, even clothing, that’s sticking to the burn.

Keep the child warm with a clean blanket and comfort him or her.

Seek medical advice. Call an ambulance if the scald is serious.

Do not use ice, oil or butter or anything else, as these can further damage the skin.

Do not touch the affected area or burst any blisters.

The medicine cabinet (Safety in the home)

A well-stocked medicine cabinet and first aid kit are essential, as it seems you need them most in an emergency.

Remember that your cabinet should be childproof, either locked or well out of reach.

If you’re starting one from scratch, this list will help.

Pain relievers and medicines to bring down fever (both adult and junior versions if you have children in the house)

Antiseptic cream

Cotton wool buds

Cotton wool balls, including a sterile pack

Antacids for heartburn, stomach aches

Anti-diarrhoea medicine

Anti-itch cream

Mild laxative

Hydrocortisone cream for insect bites and eczema

Bicarbonate of soda

Petroleum jelly

Cold/allergy remedy

Antihistamine and decongestant

Expectorant cough medicine

Methylated spirits (denatured alcohol)

Teaspoon or other dose measure, such as syringe, for children

Hydrogen peroxide

Syrup of ipecac



Family medical guide

Hot water bottle

Heat pack

Ice pack (stored in your freezer).

Homemade antiseptic

Here’s a simple homemade recipe that can be used for minor cuts and grazes.

Dissolve salt in boiled water.

Dip a cotton wool ball in the warm, salty water and apply it to the injury.

First aid kit

Keep a first aid kit in your car as well as in the house. Pharmacists sell ready-assembled kits; check against the following list and supplement where necessary.

small roller bandage

large roller bandage

small conforming bandage

large conforming bandage

2 eye pads with bandages


Safety pins

Calamine cream

Pack of gauze swabs

2 triangular bandages

Hypoallergenic tape

2 sterile pads

Waterproof plasters or bandaids

1 finger bandage


1 sterile dressing with bandage

DIY accidents (Safety in the home)

Unfortunately, some do-it-yourself jobs around the home can lead to injury, even death.


Most electrical injuries are sustained by adults engaged in DIY activities, while children are more at risk from ‘mending’ electrical equipment and pushing objects into sockets.

A Safety in the home switch, or circuit breaker, can save lives and prevent injuries by automatically turning off the electricity when it detects current passing out of the circuit.

To minimise risks, keep the following in mind.

When using electrically operated power tools, use a special ‘cut-off’ device.

In the event of the cable being accidentally cut, the device will shut down the electricity supply to the tool.

This piece of equipment is commonly called a residual current circuit device or earth leakage device.

Keep wiring and appliances in good order, and do not use them if you suspect they are faulty.

Keep all electrical appliances out of reach of children.

Never use electrical appliances in wet areas.

Always remember to turn off the power before removing a plug from a power point.

Do not attempt electrical repairs (other than those described) unless you are a qualified electrician.

Safety in the home

Safety in the home


Ladders are simple tools, but they can lead to nasty accidents if used incorrectly.

The base of the ladder must rest on a level, non-slip surface.

Both foot pads must touch the ground — you may shim with plywood pads but keep the ladder level.

The top of the ladder should always have total contact with the wall surface.

The distance from the base of the wall or skirting board to the foot of the ladder must be a quarter of the ladder’s rest height.

Before mounting a ladder, check all the rungs are secure and undamaged.

If you are using a ladder outdoors, watch out for overhead power lines and telephone cables.

Never overstretch — if you cannot reach comfortably, move the ladder.

When working at any height, ask a helper to hold the bottom of the ladder and prevent it moving.



The timber used in floors and stairways can be very heavy and unwieldy, so when lifting boards and joists, ask someone to help.

Do not lift more than you can safely carry .

it is better to make an extra journey and take longer to finish the job than to risk injury by carrying too much.

When lifting, bend your knees, not just your waist.

Wear gloves to protect your hands from rough concrete and timber splinters.


Never drill into an area of a wall, floor or ceiling where there are likely to be electric cables or gas and water pipes behind.

Before starting work, use a joist, pipe and cable detector to locate the exact position of such services.

Carefully read the operating instructions to ensure that you are using the detector accurately.

Before the widespread introduction of power tools, there was a plethora of attachments for electric drills that did everything from sawing to sanding.

These are both less efficient and less safe than stand-alone power tools.

Child safety around the home

When babies and toddlers are on the move, they want to inspect everything in the house, where some of the biggest threats to child safety can be found.

Here are some useful child-proofing tips for the whole house.

Place safety latches on all the drawers and cupboards that contain potentially harmful products, such as dishwashing powder and plastic bags, or implements such as knives, skewers, toothpicks and any object that could cause choking.

Reserve a special cupboard or drawer for your child, and fill it with safe items that can be used as musical instruments, for shop games or measuring and pouring fun.

Avoid sharp edges and corners on furniture that can injure.

Cover electrical outlets with safety caps.

Place electrical cords out of reach: run them along the wall or behind furniture.

Many children are injured by furniture falling on top of them as they hold onto it to pull themselves up, or try to climb on it.

Bookshelves and wardrobes can be particularly dangerous. If furniture is in danger of tipping over, it’s a good idea to bolt it to the wall.

Push appliances to the back of shelves or tables, away from the edge.

Don’t leave tiny objects — such as coins, marbles or beads, which a small child could pick up and choke on — lying around on the floor.

Never leave a nappy bucket on the floor or in a place where your child could fall into it.

Place safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs, and check that a toddler is not able to climb over them.

Closely examine balcony areas for Safety in the home.

Entranceway lighting

Lamps that light up driveways, paths and front and back doors help young and old alike to avoid falls, and deter intruders from lurking in the shadows.

How hot?

Children are more sensitive to hot water and usually prefer it at a maximum of 35°C (95°F), while babies are better off with bath water at 30°C (86°F).

Safety in the home

Safety in the home

Toy safety checklist

Avoid toy boxes with heavy lids, and use baskets in the rooms where your child plays.

Before you give your child a toy to play with, run through this safety checklist.

Is it safe?

Is it age appropriate? Check the label.

Is it unbreakable?

And is it washable?

Or is it too big to swallow?

Is it smaller than a film canister? If so, it is a potential choking hazard.

Does it have any sharp edges or other pointy bits?

Does it have any strings, cords or ribbons that are longer than 15 cm (6 in) attached?

Is it made from non-toxic materials?

Does it run on batteries or electricity? (Batteries are dangerous if children suck them.)

Does it have any small gaps that can pinch fingers?

Does it make any loud explosive sounds that could damage a baby’s hearing?



The best rule is to keep young children out of the kitchen. Consider installing a child gate, which will block the entrance while allowing your children to see you.

Keep glassware in above-bench cupboards or shelves.

Young children are insatiably curious — if they can’t see what’s on top of the stove, their natural instinct is to reach and grab!

To prevent this disastrous scenario, fit a stove guard that blocks access to the front and both sides of the stove.

If the stove top is part of a freestanding stove/oven unit, ensure that it’s anchored to the wall. Add an oven lock to prevent your child pulling open the oven door.

Turn saucepan handles away from the stove front and cook on the rear plates whenever possible.

Cordless kettles mean one less cord to be able to pull; empty kettles are one less source of hot water.

Carry plates to the pans rather than carry pans to the plates.

Turn saucepan handles away from the stove front and cook on the rear plates whenever possible.

Cordless kettles mean one less cord to be able to pull; empty kettles are one less source of hot water.

Carry plates to the pans rather than carry pans to the plates.


Don’t turn on your microwave when it’s empty, or you will damage the magnetron.

If you have small children who may turn it on by accident, always leave a jug of water in the oven.

Safety in the home – IN THE BATHROOM

The combination of slippery surfaces and hot water in the bathroom can result in nasty accidents, especially when young children are involved.

Make your bathroom a safer place by taking the following precautions.

Never leave a young child alone in the bath.

If the phone rings or someone knocks on the front door, either ignore the summons or take the child with you.

If you have small children, never leave the bathroom door open when running the bath, or when there’s water in the bath.

Use shower curtains or screens to keep the floor as dry as possible.

Avoid scalds by reducing your hot water temperature at the source, installing thermostatically-controlled mixer taps or fitting child-proof hot taps.

Use a non-slip mat that adheres to the base of the bath.

Always keep medicines, cleaning agents and other chemicals out of reach of young children.

Although glass and ceramic containers look attractive, they are not ideal materials, as if they break they will leave sharp shards that are dangerous and can be difficult to remove.

IN THE NURSERY (Safety in the home)

Paradoxically, in preparing a room for a new baby, parents may introduce new hazards.

New surfaces may include paints and varnishes, and curtains and carpets can emit numerous gases.

Ensure there is excellent ventilation in a newly decorated room, and try to finish it well before baby arrives.

When buying a cot, new or second-hand, make sure it meets the manufacturer’s cot standard for your country.

The mattress should be firm and clean and exactly the right size for the cot — a baby can become trapped in gaps.

The waterproof mattress protector must be a strong and tight fit.

Reduce the risk of SIDS or cot death ( Safety in the home)

Campaigns to reduce the risk of infants succumbing to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), or cot death, have focused on the following recommendations.

Put your baby to sleep on his back, with his feet at the bottom of the cot.

Do not cover your baby’s head or face while he is sleeping.

Tuck in the bedclothes securely.

Do not use quilts, doonas (duvets), lambskins, pillows or cot bumpers in the cot.

Do not use electric blankets, hot water bottles or wheat bags.

Avoid smoking during pregnancy.

Do not expose your baby to cigarette smoke, especially in his first year.


Taking health and safety measures seriously is especially important in the garden.

Be sure to take great care with the correct storage of the many dangerous chemicals that lurk in the shed or garage.

Lock your garage and shed at all times.

Plan your garden so that the children’s play area is well away from the driveway.

Maintain play equipment and adhere to safety standards.

Trim back any branches at children’s eye level.

Keep pathways clear of debris, toys and tools.

Water features

Water seems to have a magnetic attraction for young children, so it’s extremely important to ensure safety around a pond and other water features in the garden.

Keep pool fences maintained and gates securely closed when there are young children about.

If you decide to build a raised pool, build the walls at least 60 cm (2 ft) high and overhang coping stones.

As an extra precaution use a grid, strong enough to support a child’s weight, just under the surface of the water.

Natural stone is prone to becoming slimy and slippery, whereas concrete flags have a much better grip.

You should also check that edging stones or copings are well laid and mortared to prevent tipping.

First aid for bee and wasp stings (Safety in the home)

▸ Bees Remove the sting by scraping it sideways.

This reduces the chance of more venom being released.

Wipe the affected area clean, then apply a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water to the sting site.

Wrap a bag of ice in a towel and hold it over the sting.

Wasps Daub the sting site with cider vinegar. Wrap a bag of ice in a towel and hold it over the sting ( Safety in the home).