Home Safety

There’s not a mother on the planet that hasn’t got a horror story about their baby falling off the bed, down the stairs, out of its bouncy chair or off the sofa. We think we will never be ‘one of those parents’ who turns their back even for a second – but it happens.

So much so, that statistics from RoSPA, the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents, show that every year almost 4,000 people die in accidents in the home – and 2.7 million arrive at accident and emergency departments seeking treatment.

It only takes a second. But today there is much that can be done to secure a home for a child – and not all of it means spending money.

Most accidents that happen to children, happen to those under four and although it is easy to get paranoid, it is easy to make small changes. Here are our top ten tips:

  1. No matter how small, never leave your child unattended on a raised surface like a changing table, bed, or sofa. There will come a time when they can roll – and that moment could be the second you turn away to grab a new bag of nappies. Make sure you have everything you need to change your child before you lay them down.
  2. Don’t leave them in a baby bouncer on a table, as the rocking could topple it over.
  3. Fit safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases. Keep your stairs free from toys or loose carpet and replace any lost balustrades. Above all, close the safety gates EVERY time you use them.
  4. Keep windows closed and fit special child-resistant locks that prevent them from being opened more than a small amount. Laminated or toughened glass should be used for glass in doors. It is now possible to buy film to coat your windows and doors – a cheaper alternative to having toughened glass fitted.
  5. It sounds obvious, but move all glass, ceramic and heavy objects well out of reach. Even plants in heavy pots can topple, as can televisions not on sturdy stands.
  6. Keep matches, lighters, bleaches, medicines and cleaning products in high cupboards. Toddlers are clever and inventive and can defeat small plastic door catches in a few seconds. Better to move dangerous products totally out of temptation.
  7. Always use fireguards and teach your child from a very early age – even before they can walk or talk – that the fire is hot.
  8. Fit a smoke alarm – preferably a set of two or more – and check the battery regularly. A good tip is to write it on the calendar and do it on the first of every month.
  9. Keep children out of the kitchen if possible. Often, this really isn’t practical, so get into the habit of using rear hobs on the cooker, fit cooker button shields, curly appliance wires, and try to buy a tumble dryer which cannot be opened when in use and that does not automatically start when the door is closed. Keep hot irons well out of reach – even after you have finished using them.
  10. When buying toys, check that there are no small parts that could be pulled off and swallowed. Follow the age guidelines.

Although illegal, unsafe toys can still be found on sale, so it is vital to shop with care. Look for the mandatory European Community (CE) symbol and the voluntary British Toy and Hobby Association’s ‘Lion Mark’ as a condition of the association’s trade membership is that toys must meet statutory safety requirements. Avoid toys with loose pile fabric or hair that shreds easily and could cause a child to choke. Also steer clear of toys with sharp points, finger traps or loose ribbons. It is not difficult to childproof your home with a little common sense – and by simply watching your child and seeing what interests them. If they make a continual beeline for the video, cover it with a lock. DIY stores sell safety products – and often in room by room packs. Something as simple as a colourful sticker on a patio door can prevent bumps and bruises, but if you want to go for maximum protection, companies like Safety 1st (www.safety1st.com) sell everything from fire guards, stair gates and socket inserts, to cupboard, drawer and fridge latches, slip resistant bath mats, soft corner cushions for worktops, toilet seat latches and safety glass film. It is even possible to buy escape ladders for a quick exit from an upstairs room in case of fire. Of course, ‘child safety’ these days can also extend to the web. Parental control over the internet is getting easier. There are literally dozens of websites offering simple-to-download safeguards. Search under ‘internet parental control’ and follow the instructions. Many are free.

RoSPA is on 0121 248 2000. The association also sells a DVD called ‘Home is Where The Harm Is’ which gives practical advice on safety.

A downloadable Good Practice Guide covering everything from preventing injuries and accidents to child home safety equipment schemes, fitting and maintenance is also available at www.rospa.org.uk