Health & Safety

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Home Safety Awareness Campaign

2 January 2014

Every year in the UK more than 5,000 people die in accidents in the home and 2.7 million turn up at accident and emergency departments seeking treatment.

Hospital Accident and Emergency Department sign

More accidents happen at home than anywhere else - but, because the accidents happen behind closed doors in isolated incidents, they rarely attract public and media attention.

The CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department is linking up with RoSPA in their campaign to raise awareness of the everyday risks that people overlook or take for granted and which can end up in tragedy. This campaign is about informing, educating and helping to prevent accidents in the home and garden.

Children under the age of five and people over 65 (particularly those over 75) are most likely to have an accident at home. Under- five's account for a half a million accidents a year in the home and 1,500 of the deaths in home accidents involve over 75's as a result of a fall - so families need to take extra care and look out for the risks to these groups of people and not take things for granted that it won't happen in your house! Every year around 150 children under 15 die as the result of an accident in the home and around 25,000 under-fives attend A&E departments each year after being accidentally poisoned and 26,000 under-fives are burnt or scalded in the home every year. A hot drink - tea or coffee can still scald a small child up to 15 minutes after it is made. Every year 4,500 children are involved in falling down stairs and 4,000 children under the age of 15 are injured falling from upper floor windows.

The cost to society of UK home accident injuries has been estimated at 45billion (45,000million) annually.

Preventing Accidents in the Home - Advice & Tips

Unfortunately your home is the place where accidents are most likely to occur. Everyone should be aware of the dangers in the home so that accidents can be avoided. The purpose of this LTB and information is to raise awareness of the type of accidents that may occur in the home and what steps you can take to prevent them.

Fire Safety

Fires can start suddenly and spread quickly, damaging your home and furniture and putting lives in danger. They are caused in a variety of ways, but there are a few simple hints you can follow to prevent them starting.

  • Keep all fires and heaters well guarded, especially open fires. For fitted or portable heaters with a built in guard, give extra protection by adding a surrounding guard particularly if you have young children or older people in the home. For children, use a nursery guard with side clips that fit into fixed wall brackets
  • Keep portable heaters and candles away from furniture and curtains. Position safely where they cannot be knocked over
  • Don't dry or air clothes over or near the fire, or the cooker
  • Do not smoke in bed
  • Many fires start in the kitchen, especially fat fires. Never leave a pan unattended when deep fat frying and watch for overheating. For safer frying use oven chips or a thermostatically controlled deep fat fryer
  • If there are children around, keep matches and lighters well out of reach
  • Fit approved smoke detectors on each floor and check them regularly. Choose a smoke alarm that is mains operated or one with a long life (ten year) battery
  • Plan your escape route. Make a fire action plan so that everyone in your house knows how to escape. Remember Get out, stay out and call the fire brigade out!
  • Protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning with an audible CO alarm.

Electrical Safety

Many accidents and fatalities involve electricity - it must be treated with respect. Here are some tips.

  • Have your wiring installation checked at least once every five years by an approved contractor, or straightaway if you are buying an older property
  • Do not use appliances with worn or damaged flexes. Don't wire flexes together
  • Keep portable mains-operated appliances out of the bathroom
  • Have electric blankets serviced and checked regularly
  • If an appliance appears faulty stop using it and have it checked at once
  • Consider having a RCD (residual current device) for whole house protection. These are especially valuable when power tools are used
  • Look for the CE mark when you buy electrical equipment
  • Never overload an electric socket.

Heating and Cooking

Safety is especially important when choosing and using heating products.

  • All fuel-burning appliances use up fresh air as they burn, and give off waste gases including the deadly carbon monoxide (CO). Never block air vents or airbricks and service appliances annually
  • Be aware of symptoms of CO poisoning such as drowsiness and flu like symptoms
  • If you use a chimney or flue, or bring one back into use, have it swept at least once a year, or more frequently if you burn wood
  • Never block any outside grilles or rest anything against it
  • If a gas flame, which normally burns blue, burns orange this may be a build up of carbon monoxide. Have your appliance checked immediately
  • Check the pilot regularly on gas cookers and water heaters to make sure it has not gone out
  • When buying gas appliances look for the British Standards safety mark or British Seal of Approval and beware of second-hand bargains and cowboy installers
  • If you suspect a gas leak, open the windows, turn off the supply and call your gas supplier. Don't operate switches as a spark could ignite the gas
  • Always keep a special watch on young children and elderly people when fires and heaters are in use.
  • Protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning with an audible CO alarm.

The kitchen is where some of the most serious home accidents occur

  • Plan your storage areas carefully so that heavy items are not kept on high shelves, and items in daily use are within easy reach
  • Take extra care with hot water, tea, coffee or soup. If there are young children around, they could get scalded
  • Keep knives sharp and in good condition and out of reach of children
  • Keep panhandles turned inward so that children cannot reach them and pull them over
  • Use a cordless kettle or one with a coiled lead so that children cannot pull on them.

Bioethanol and gel fuel burners

Bioethanol and gel fuel burners are becoming increasingly popular and are often used as decorative items and heating sources both indoors and outdoors.

The fuel, which burns with a virtually invisible flame, is mostly produced from sugar plants and is typically used for cooking, water heating and the heating of buildings. It is sold in fire pots for use in fondue sets, small fireplaces and patio torches. The high risk of accidental burns makes them unsuitable for use in the home. Advice for the use of bioethanol and gel burners:

  • Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines and instructions
  • Only use bioethanol fuel in fireboxes and containers designed for the product
  • Bioethanol fuel is highly flammable and should be kept in containers tightly closed and away from any ignition sources
  • Fireboxes and containers should always be placed on a stable surface and away from combustible materials
  • Never add fuel to a burning fire or overfill a fuel container and never fill up a firebox fuel container that is still hot
  • Keep children and pets away from fireboxes and fuel
  • Extinguish all fires when leaving a room or before going to sleep
  • Always use bioethanol fireboxes and containers in a well-ventilated room
  • Regularly clean and check fuel containers for damage and never use a leaking one
  • Clean away any fuel spills with a damp cloth and dry completely
  • Keep your hands, hair and clothing well clear of any burning flames and fuel
  • Always light bioethanol fuel with an extended lighter or extra-long match - never discard matches into the container.

Safety Glass

Ordinary glass is dangerous - particularly at low level - because it breaks into large, jagged pieces which can cause serious injury. The Building Regulations require safety glass to be fitted in glazed doors, side panels and areas below 800mm in new buildings.

  • Safety glass is specially made. There are two main types: laminated glass and toughened glass. When it breaks it breaks safely - in a way unlikely to cause injury
  • If ordinary glass is in use, you can help reduce the risks
  • Make sure that people know that the glass is there and see that the area is well lit
  • Never let children play near glass - they could easily crash through it and receive a serious injury.

Safety with Medicines and Cleaners

Chemical preparations of any sort, whether in the form of medicines or household cleaners should always be treated with caution.

  • Consider having a proper lockable cabinet fitted in the kitchen for medicines and chemicals where it is more likely to be supervised
  • Keep medicines in their original containers, clearly labelled
  • Do not take other people's medicine, or let them take yours
  • Return leftover medicines to the pharmacist for destruction - don't hoard them
  • Keep medicines, chemical and cleaning products such as bleach, turpentine and caustic soda where children cannot see or reach them
  • Chemicals used in the garden, garage or workshop need to be used and stored with great care. Store them in a safe place where children can't see or reach them
  • Keep cosmetics, perfumes and essential oils away from children.

DIY and Garden Safety

Over-ambition and lack of knowledge are two of the biggest factors in DIY accidents causing death and injury.

  • Be realistic and don't tackle a job unless you really have the ability. A competent, qualified person should always carry out gas and electrical renewal or repair work
  • Keep any tools clean and in good repair, and give each one a quick check over before you use it
  • Always plan ahead - accidents happen more easily if you are unprepared and rush
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes when mowing the lawn and keep your feet and hands well away from the mower blades
  • Stop and disconnect all electrical appliances and tools before working on them
  • Ensure that all tools, paint and chemicals are kept safely out of the reach of children
  • Take extra care with sharp cutting tools
  • Follow makers' instructions very carefully when using adhesives, especially the instant type
  • Use an RCD - residual current device - if your home is not already wired as standard
  • Keep children and pets away when carrying out DIY
  • Keep barbecues well away from trees, buildings and fences. Never pour petrol on a barbecue
  • Some plants and berries are poisonous or can cause an allergic reaction
  • Keep all products in their original containers.

Home and Garden Safety Checklists

See below common sense guide to home safety in the form of a Home and Garden Safety Checklist including Barbecue Safety Advice.

Home safety checklist

  • Avoid trips, slips and falls by ensuring halls and stairways are always well lit and free from clutter
  • Change light bulbs safely, without the risk of falling by using a stable step-stool. Avoid using old chairs to climb on
  • Stay safe from fire by testing smoke alarms monthly and be sure all the family know how to escape in the event of a fire
  • Avoid burns and scalds, particularly to children, by always using the cooker's back ring or hotplate first and position panhandles so that they can't be pulled over and by keeping hot drinks out of reach of children
  • Reduce the likelihood of household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty flues or equipment by having gas, oil or solid fuel heating appliances professionally serviced once a year
  • Reduce the risk of electrical fires and electrocution by never using appliances with cracked plugs or worn cables. Avoid overloading electric sockets with too many appliances
  • Avoid fire risks by using guards with all fires and heaters and keep clothing, furniture and curtains away from all heat sources, including candles
  • To minimise the risk of falls from windows, install and use restrictor catches on all upstairs windows and place furniture away from windows
  • Reduce trips, slips and falls by always quickly cleaning up spills
  • Poisoning or chemical burns can be prevented storing medicines and household chemicals out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a secure, high-level kitchen cupboard
  • Avoid bath time scalds by running cold water before hot and carefully testing water temperature, particularly before bathing children who should never be left unattended
  • Don't risk electrocution by taking electrical appliances into the bathroom. Water is a good conductor of electricity so you should never touch electrical appliances with wet hands.

Garden safety checklist

  • Protect yourself from electrocution by always using a residual current device (RCD) when operating electrically powered garden tools and mowers
  • Avoid poisoning and chemical burns by storing chemicals for use in garage or garden safely out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a secure cabinet
  • Reduce the risk of small children drowning by securely fencing or filling in garden ponds or water features and always supervising children near water
  • Avoid accidents and injury when doing DIY tasks by always operating within the range of your skills, ability and experience. Always use personal protective equipment including gloves, goggles, helmet, and facemask and safety shoes as appropriate and recommended for the task and follow manufacturer's instructions
  • Avoid injury from falls by always checking the condition of ladders before use and using at a safe angle (1 in 4)
  • Avoid injury from sharp garden tools to users or children by keeping them in good repair and safely tidied away after use. Keep children safely away whenever using lawnmowers, doing DIY projects or household repairs
  • Prevent accidental poisoning or injuries to yourself or others by carefully following manufacturer's instructions when using weed killers, adhesives and solvents. Never transfer to alternative containers that could confuse and lead to poisonings
  • Prevent injury from trips, slips and falls, by providing safety rails and barriers to changes in garden levels and ensure all paths and steps are level, stable and free from moss
  • Avoid uncontrollable fires by always siting bonfires and barbecues well away from fences, sheds and trees. Supervise children all the time
  • Barbecues should be fun, and will be safe if you prepare properly. When preparing a barbecue you should take a number of precautions - see below.

Barbecue Safety Advice

Outdoor activities are often a great way to spend your leisure time but they have their own set of unique fire risks that should not be underestimated. However, some common sense preparation can ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience.

A barbecue should be a safe and enjoyable experience but it's all too easy to be distracted when you have friends and family around you whilst cooking. To avoid injuries or damage to property, follow these simple precautions:
  • Make sure your barbecue is in good working order.
  • Ensure the barbecue is on a flat site, well away from a shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Keep children, garden games and pets well away from the cooking area.
  • Never leave the barbecue unattended.
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies.
  • Ensure the barbecue is cool before attempting to move it.

Charcoal Barbecues

  • Use only enough charcoal to cover the base to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches).
  • Only use recognised fire lighters or starter fuel and only on cold coals - use the minimum necessary and never use petrol.
  • Never put hot ashes straight into a dustbin or wheelie bin - they could melt the plastic and cause a fire.

[complied with information from RoSPA and the UK Fire & Rescue Service]