Dangers In The Home
Let’s tour the home, room-by-room. Your home…
First the Porch and the front door…
- Do you have a doormat on the outside that is non-slip? Do you have a worn doormat that will trip? A curled-up edge on a doormat can be a real danger especially if your entry door and porch have steps.
- If you have steps, are they solid and safe? Do you have a handrail? No, it’s not always necessary to have a handrail but remember, in addition to your own family members, there are others, perhaps some who are elderly or who have disabilities that would benefit from there being a handrail.
- How do you lock the front door? When it is locked can it be opened from the inside without needing a key? Keys can be misplaced and, so, if a key is needed in order to unlock the door, you should attach a key to a secure location close to the door by a chain that is long enough to allow the door to be unlocked without having to detach the key from the chain.
Next, the hallway…
- Inside the front door do you have a door mat that is non-slip? Again, like outside on the porch, a worn doormat with curled-up edges inside the front door can be a real danger.
- If you live in an area that is threatened by earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes, do you have any tall furniture, such as a hutch or a bookcase that is not securely attached to the wall? Not only can a falling bookcase or cabinet be a danger in terms of it falling on someone. It can also be a danger because, if fallen, it can block a main exit.
- The Hallway and stairs (if you have stairs) are the first place that you should have a smoke detection alarm and a carbon monoxide detection alarm.
Smoke detection alarms and carbon monoxide detection alarms should installed on every floor of the home, which for most 2-story homes means in the downstairs hall and on the upstairs landing, with additional smoke detection alarms in bedrooms and other room on the ground floor and upstairs. In other words, if a room does not have a smoke detector, an adjacent room should. For more information on smoke detection alarms and carbon monoxide detection alarms check out our page on Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors.
- Most rooms in our homes have electrical power outlets. Most electrical power outlets are wall-mounted and are located close to the ground, typically between 9 and 18 inches from the ground although they can be lower or higher. This height is just about perfect for small children who can sit and just reach forward and pull on any electrical cord that is plugged into the power outlet. Not only that, but that electrical cord is connected to something. That something might be a standard lamp or a table lamp, a radio, a clock, or cell ‘phones among the most common things that might be plugged into a power outlet in the hallway. Power cords need to be routed and secured so that they cannot be tripped over, and that means in homes with small children, are out of sight and out of reach of crawlers and toddlers.
Next, if you have stairs, the Staircase…
- If you have small children who are crawlers or even toddlers, you should have a gate across the bottom of the stairs to stop a small child that is not accompanied from climbing the stairs. While a gate at the bottom of the stairs is important, even more important is a gate at the top of the stairs, and that gate must be secured to the wall or solid stair banister upright by screws or bolts; a ‘compression-secured’ gate is not safe. Also, the gate height must be at least 32” high. Lower level gates that offer convenience for adults who can step right over them represent a danger for the larger small child who can reach the top rail.
- Carpets on the stairs must be firmly attached so that there is no carpet movement. Any movement is likely to cause a person to slip and fall when coming down the stairs.
Next, let’s take a look in the family room…
- As described above in the hallway section, electrical power outlets are a concern in every room in the home. Power cords need to be routed and secured so that they cannot be tripped over, and that means in homes with small children, are out of sight and out of reach of crawlers and toddlers.
There are two ends to every power cord, the end plugged into the power outlet and the end attached to the appliance. The most dangerous electrical appliance is probably the clothes iron which, in the course of normal use, is precariously balanced on the ironing board. It is a heavy object that can easily be pulled over by a tug on the power cord, and an iron is solid and heavy enough to cause major injury to a child, or even an adult.
A tip that can reduce the likelihood of a child pulling a power cord out of the power socket (outlet), is to plug a power outlet strip into the wall socket, one that is long enough to be routed so that the light-weight power cords with only 2-pin plugs are out of sight, such as under or behind furniture. A small child is much less likely to be able to pull a 3-pin power plug out of the wall socket than a 2-pin plug. Also, a child is less likely to chew on a heavy power cord than a light-weight power cord.
- The next danger to look for and eliminate in the family room is a dangling cord from drapes or blinds. These, if they reach low enough, are a danger for strangling a small child. Children will put the loops over then heads and around their necks, and then get into difficulty, which is a frightening scenario. If these cords are loops, then cut the loop. It may then be necessary to add an additional length of cord to each of the two ends if it is a wide window that the drapes are drawn across or a full floor to ceiling blind. Installing cleats at a height above a small child’s reach to secure the cords to is recommended as an added safety precaution.
- While addressing window dressings, there are other possible dangers associated with windows. Could a child climb up onto a window and fall out. Even falling out of a ground floor window can result in serious injury. Remove furniture that is close to windows that can be used by a child to climb up onto the windowsill. Additionally, check that window locks are secure so that not only will they prevent intruders but also cannot be easily opened by a child. Replace existing window catches if they don’t lock or cannot be locked.
- Children will climb on anything that can be climbed. This means two things. First, they can climb and then fall, and second, they can climb and pull things down or over. Take a look around and identify anything that might represent an opportunity for an injury, and take appropriate action; especially, making secure anything that could be toppled.
Next, we’ll head into the dining room…
- Dining means cutlery. Dining means a table that might be covered by a tablecloth, and that means a tablecloth that can be pulled down off the table by a small child. A table cloth falling and draping itself over a small child can be a scary thing for that child, but a table cloth being pulled and a plate or some other object falling and hitting a child is likely to cause more than just a scare. It could be a serious injury.
- Crawling under tables and chairs is now a favorite activity, but standing up can be very painful when you’re just tall enough to hit your head on the underside of that table or chair.
- Cabinet doors and drawers need to be made child-proof. Small children quickly learn how cupboard and cabinet doors and drawers work. Make sure any drawer that has anything sharp in it cannot be pulled open by a small child. Also, light-weight drawers without cutlery or anything heavy in them might seem innocent but if the child can pull the drawer entirely out of the cabinet, the drawer itself can inflict serious injury.
- Dining chairs are often light enough for even a small child to move and be used for climbing on and climbing up on to reach anything that can be reached. The most favorite item to reach for is shiny and sparkly, and it breaks easily, called glass.
The kitchen is next…
- There are multiple dangers in the kitchen – the hot oven, pans on the stovetop, toxic cleaners in the cupboard under the sink, drawers with knives, knives on countertops,
- To control when your young person is allowed in the kitchen, gates should be installed in doorways into the kitchen.
- Babies are curious, inquisitive, and determined. They are very observant and will watch and take notice of everything you, the parent, and others in the household (siblings) do. In the kitchen, you open a cabinet door, the cupboard under the sink, the refrigerator, the oven, you pull out a drawer – you can be sure that baby wants to copy you. They might even notice what it is that you’ve taken out of or put into a cupboard or a drawer – or the refrigerator, or the oven – and for sure they’ll make a beeline for it at the first opportunity. Different items used or found in the kitchen have different types of danger, and hazards with different levels of danger.
- At the top of the danger list in a kitchen where meal preparation, especially baking is going on, is the oven. A Crawling child reaches and uses any available surface to pull themselves up on, and a child’s fingers and hands will be burned, potentially, seriously injured, if they choose a hot oven to climb up against.
- Installing child-proof catches or locks on any cupboard that is below the counter level in a kitchen is a must. There are several different basic types of catches and securing devices available. The most important thing it needs to be truly child-proof and if it can be operated (opened) by an adult using just one hand that makes the catch less inconvenient to live with.
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Printable Safety Checklists
Click here to view and print our printable Safety Lists for inside the home (indoors) and the yard and garden (outdoors). These checklists summarize the key points we are covering in this post and are accompanied by additional discussions regarding Refrigerators, Under-the-Sink Cabinets, Spill-proof Trash Bins, and Knives, Scissors and other Kitchen Tools.
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Next, we’ll head to the Bathroom(s) and Bedroom(s), whether downstairs or upstairs…
If there are multiple bathrooms in the home, the simplest bathroom is usually the one that’s most convenient for visitors as well as family to use. The only potential risk to a small child might be that the child could reach up and drop the toilet seat with one hand which lands on the other hand. Ouch!. But then, of course, there is the germ factor associated with the toilet. A risk to the toilet of a small child gaining access when unaccompanied might be a toy. A toy that the child has chosen to carry into the toilet and drop into the toilet bowl. Maybe a toilet seat catch would be a good idea to prevent either injury to the child or the need to call a plumber when the toilet is blocked by a toilet that appeared to flush but actually got jammed in the ‘p’ bend.
In the busier bathrooms, there are many more possibilities making the bathroom the second most likely place behind the kitchen and the laundry room for a child to poison themselves – Lotions, Potions, and Medications! Keep them all safe and secure, and it really is best to keep the adult’s toothpaste as well as razors, shavers, tweezers, and nail scissors out of reach. Teach your child how to brush their teeth for good hygiene practice and also for thriftiness. Your plumbing will appreciate it if you do as toothpaste sludge will build up in the ‘p’ bend under the sink.
There’s the child’s bedroom and then there are other bedrooms. Making the child’s bedroom baby-safe is an obvious thing to do. Once a baby has gained enough strength to pull themselves up in their crib, as soon as they can grip the vertical bars and pull themselves up, they will. It won’t be long before they will reach the top rail and pull themselves up, and once they get there and develop some leg strength they will be capable of pulling themselves up enough to climb over, but they will not have enough strength to hold on once they are over that top rail. Often, that results in a trip to ER as a fall from climbing over the top rail of a crib will require a thorough checkout in ER. Mattress, pillows or cushions on the floor adjacent to the baby crib once your baby is able to pull themselves up is a good idea as once baby is able to pull themselves up into a standing position in their crib, they will quickly become a climber. They only need to get one leg up and one foot hooked over the top rail and they are out. The problem is they haven’t either the arm strength, the grip or the presence of mind to hold on tightly enough to prevent a fall. So a mattress or several pillows or cushions on the floor by the crib will at least make for a soft landing. Another potential fall in the baby’s bedroom is falling off the changing table. Having a changing pad with safety straps and using them is the obvious solution to preventing such an incident.
Following the common-sense guidance that has already been discussed regarding electrical power outlets and power cords, and also suggestions regarding cords for drapes or blinds, and window catches or locks will all help make the baby’s room, baby safe.
The same considerations should also be given to any other bedroom that the baby or small child might have access to.