Each year in Australia 320,000 children under 15 and 380,000 adults and seniors are treated in hospital as a result of an accident. And many of those occur in the home.
What is more alarming is that a large percentage of the accidents could have been avoided by observing good safety practices in the home… and the garden.
The two groups most at risk are, not surprisingly, young children and the elderly. Let’s look at some of the everyday hazards these groups are often exposed to and then look at what you can do about them.
Group 1 – Kids
Nothing is as effective as adult supervision when it comes to kids’ safety but, even under your nose, kids have a habit of discovering trouble! Take a look around your home. The majority of accidents can be prevented simply by trying to see the house through a child’s eyes – and then taking a few precautions. For instance:
• Make sure cupboards that contain medicines or chemicals of any kind have child proof closures.
• Secure any unstable furniture like top heavy dressers that could topple over.
• Do you have child proof power points?
• Are there any sharp corners on bench tops or furniture that should be cushioned?
• Do doors have protectors to stop little fingers being jammed?
• Check whether windows (particularly older style windows) have safety glass and that upper level windows can’t be opened wide enough for a child to fall out.
• Loose curtain and blind cords can strangle children particularly if they are looped so get them out of the way.
• Heaters and radiators can burn! Put guards round them if necessary. And, talking of burns, hot water should be no more than 50C degrees.
Once you start the list seems endless and extends to the garden too. Even common plants like azaleas and poinsettias can poison very young children. (Unfortunately, statistics produced by Homesafe Kids* shows that approximately half of Australian gardens have toxic plants!)
Group 2 – Seniors
As people age identifying hazards in the home becomes critical. Key changes made at the right time can give the elderly a better quality of life and, more importantly, allow them to remain independent for longer. And, it can also add value to their property. Here are some of the things to look out for:
• Like young children, the elderly burn easily so check that hot water doesn’t exceed 50C degrees and hot surfaces on heaters and radiators are out of reach.
• Sharp corners bruise so pad the ends of benches and furniture.
• Make sure power points are positioned near the appliance. Avoid using extension cords and leads that might easily trip someone up.
• Many older homes still contain glass in windows and doors that could shard if someone falls against them. Make sure that lower level glass, even safety rated, has appropriate markings to avoid people accidentally bumping into it.
• Stairs are a particular hazard for seniors. Are the handrails sturdy and the treads non-slip?
• Slippery surfaces of any kind pose a problem older people so use non-slip mats under rugs and treat bathroom floors if necessary. Check garden paths and remove moss or mould.
So what else can you do?
With kids one solution is to set up a ‘child proof zone’ within the house that provides maximum safety for minimum outlay.
You can create an area using safety gates or exclusion barriers that might typically include the kids’ bedrooms, the hallway and the main family room or whatever area can be supervised from, say, the kitchen or main living area. Then make an assessment of every hazard within that area and correct it. With the elderly, much the same principles apply. But, if you don’t feel confident to do this, don’t worry. You can download information online that will help you – like the Home Safety Guide from www.homesafekids.com.au *which covers the main things to look for.
Alternatively Mitchell Partners can conduct a professional assessment. Mitchell Partners have extensive experience in home safety and can advise you on the sorts of measures that will reduce the potential for accidents – whether you’re building from scratch or making changes to an existing home.
If you’d like to find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Homesafe? Who are they?
The Homesafe Group was founded by a group of architects and safety professionals and utilises the skills of this country’s leading experts in architectural design, home safety and building technology – for instance, Kidsafe and Monash University Accident Research Centre. It can advise on safety in the home and also help you add real value by introducing safety features into the design. Visit their website at www.homesafegroup.com.au Mitchell Partners recommends Homesafe.
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