Home Safety 101:
Top 10 Causes of Home Disaster and How to Prevent Them.
I’m sure that you have all heard the statistic of accidents, and that 75% – 80% of all accidents happen at home. Well it may sound absurdly high, but it’s quite true. Compared to the home, the number of accidents on the road seems small and quite nominal.
Not only do home accidents hold such a high percentage, but they also account for more than 100,000 deaths each year, and over 21 million injuries and hospital visits. Those are very high numbers.
“But the home is supposed to be a safe place!” Yes, the home is supposed to be a safe place, and it is that very mentality that leads to so many accidents.
Most household accidents and injuries can easily be avoided with proper preventative measures and caution. Don’t worry though. There is no need to suddenly lose that feeling of ease and comfort at home. So, let’s discuss what the most common causes are, and how to prevent them.
Most of us are aware that falls are a very real issue in the home, and that they account for a very large portion of household injuries. What most people are not aware of, however, is that falls are the *leading cause of household injuries and fatalities, and it’s not just the elderly either.
Falls can and do happen to every age and demographic. No one is immune to falling, because no one is immune to gravity, so this is something we should all take seriously.
So here are some ways to prevent falling:
I. Read and obey warning labels.
It is rather unbelievable how many falls happen on ladders, step ladders, and step stools. Use caution when intentionally elevating yourself. Read the labels, and most importantly, follow them.
II. Clear that clutter.
Quite a few falls are actually due to stumbling over clutter and mess. Taking just a few minutes to clear your walking path goes a long way towards your safety.
III. Wires and cables.
Most households have an abundance of electronics, and electronics need power, which means wires on the floor. Don’t leave wires loose on the floor. Run them behind your furniture and appliances. Organize them, and keep them out of your path.
IV. Throw the throw rug.
Rugs are a huge falling obstacle. It’s preferable and safer to just get rid of them. If you must have them though, secure them and be cautious of them.
Take the time to make sure you have proper lighting. This is especially true if you are older, or have bad eyesight. It’s such a simple thing, and yet so very important.
*Falls account for for around 2.5 million household injuries every year, with 750,000 hospitalizations, and around 25,000 fatalities.
**Numbers as according to the CDC and the US Department of health.
2: Poisoning (Pharmaceuticals)
Medication poisoning is a very real, and very dangerous threat, accounting for a *staggering amount of deaths annually.
Avoiding medication poisoning is as simple as consulting your pharmacist about your medications, and reading the labels printed on the bottles.
Stay informed about your medications, and know which ones are known to have negative effects when mixed. This is a very important thing to be on top of, because finding out the wrong way, can be very harmful with life long effects, or it can even fatal.
*Medication poisoning accounts for more than 500,000 hospital visits each year, and around 35,000 deaths each year, making it the leading cause of household fatalities.
**Numbers as according to the CDC
3: Smoke Alarms & House Fires
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that *one of the leading causes of household injuries and accidents is fire. In fact, fire is responsible for the most damage to property annually, not just to people. A lot of house fires are avoidable through proper safety precautions, and we will cover those in another article.
So what steps to we take to avoid injury in a fire?
I. Regularly check your smoke alarms:
Change the battery every 2-3 months, and test it monthly to make sure it works. If it doesn’t, replace it immediately! Smoke alarms cost less then $25 and can be found at any hardware store.
II. Know your escape plan:
Make a map of your fire escape routes, and post them somewhere visible and commit them to memory. This not only helps you have a safe plan of action, but it also protects you against liability.
III. Have a contingency plan:
In the event that you are trapped and can’t access your escape routes, know where the safest place you can be is located. Make LOTS and LOTS of noise, the firemen rescuing you are trying to find you. DO NOT attempt to run through the fire.
IV. Have a Fire Extinguisher handy:
These are not very expensive and can go a very long way towards fire safety. Having one on hand can actually stop a small fire before it becomes a big problem.
*House fires accounted for more than 15,000 injuries, and 3,000 fatalities last year, as well as damage to 370,000 homes and 11.7 billion in total loss.
**Numbers according the the United States Fire Administration
4: Choking & Suffocation
This one is particularly threatening to children, more so than adults. The most common cause of suffocation is airway blockage, and is most commonly caused by a child swallowing a small object or toy that is too large for their passageway.
Now, most people know about this danger, and about the most common cause. Most, however, do not know that the second largest cause of asphyxiation is clutter and fluff. That’s right, you really need to monitor pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals in a child’s bed. For a small child or infant especially, it is very easy for these things to obstruct their air passageways simply by cluttering around their face, or the child’s head becoming buried beneath them.
Also watch for small objects like coins and legos making their way into the bed. It’s is very uncommon, but these things can become swallowed in their sleep. It has happened before.
Adults are not immune to this threat. Although a lot more rare, we should watch out for some of the same threats.
If you find yourself in the situation of someone choking, it is important to know what to do. We have included a link below that details what to do in such an emergency.
*Choking accounts for around 10,000 reported injuries, and 200 fatalities each year.
**Numbers according the the National Safety Council, the Us Department of Health, and the CDC.
5: Water Heaters
Water heaters are a very useful part of modern day living. Their purpose, of course to provide hot water to showers, sinks, washing machines, and dishwashers. Having hot water is a wonderful luxury, but potentially a dangerous one if not treated with caution.
What we need to understand is that water heaters can reach dangerous heat levels, and cause sever scalding, and in rare cases even death.
To avoid this it is important to understand 2 important facts:
1. Water heaters can reach temperatures in excess of 180 degrees Fahrenheit if not properly maintained.
2. Humans sustain first degree burns at 135 degrees upon contact, and second degree burns after only 5 seconds of exposure.
Fortunately, it is very easy to make sure this isn’t a danger to you. There are some very simple steps that you can take.
I. Set the Temperature.
Make sure that the temperature is set to a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Normally, this is something that only needs to be done once, but it can never hurt to check it. If you live with several other people, especially curious small children, make sure they know not to touch it, and check every so often to make sure that nobody has. This isn’t the kind of surprise that you want to have sprung upon you.
II. Proper maintenance.
Have the tank flushed and the anode rod checked once annually. This is easy and inexpensive, and a good precautionary measure that will increase the efficiency and longevity of your heater.
*Scalding accounts for around 500,000 injuries each year. This number would place this higher on the list, but less than %3 of these are due to the water heater. More scalding injuries come from appliances, food, cars, and other such things.
**Numbers as according to the CDC and US department of health.
The leading cause of water related injury in the home is unsurprisingly the pool. The second leading cause…is the bathroom, more specifically the bathtub and shower.
Safety around a pool should always be a priority, as this is statistically a danger to both children and adults. Experts recommend the following precautions around a pool.
II. Never leave children unsupervised.
You should never allow a child around a pool or body of water without supervision.
III. Child-proof your pool.
Take the time to make sure your pool is secure. Make it difficult for children to get into the pool area without an adult’s help.
Safety in the bathroom is also very important. A surprising number of people suffer injuries or drown in bathrooms every year. So how do you avoid this?
I. Never bathe while tired.
The number one way people drown in bathrooms is by falling asleep in the tub. This is a very easy situation to avoid. Being clean is not worth the potential risk when you are tired.
II. Prevent slips in the shower.
This one isn’t as much of a drowning danger as a fall threat, but it still is one. For $10-$30, you can buy a grip map to put in the shower and greatly reduce this risk.
*Drowning accounts for around 4,000 deaths annually (including boating, and swimming in places like lakes, rivers and oceans)
**Numbers according to the CDC, and NSC.
Home appliances account for approx. 900 injuries every year. The vast majority (96%) of these are non-fatal, and almost all of them can be avoided.
The most common injury from appliances is burning. With so many cooking appliances such as the oven, toaster, microwave, skillet etc., burns are quite common. Most occur from not paying attention to the hot surface, which is an easy mistake to make.
The second most common injury from household appliances is being cut. While most cuts are minor and treatable at home, some do require medical attention. Never ignore a cut. Treat it immediately by disinfecting, and covering it up. Having an infected cut can lead to some very serious problems, some even life-threatening.
There are a few deaths reported every year from home appliances. Most of them from an appliance falling on someone. This might seem odd, but it does happen.
The list of most dangerous and frequent fall items include:
*The larger items mostly occur on stairs when being moved, so it is very important to transport them properly and to use the proper equipment on stairways.
**Appliance related injuries accounted for around 9,000 cases last year, and less than 1,000 fatalities.
***Numbers as according to the National Product Safety Commission.
8: Poor storage habits
When it comes to storage, most of us are guilty of boxing up and storing in a forgotten closet those things that we, “Might use again for…well, no…but there’s always…ok, well probably not.” Which can sometimes lead to over-storage.
Now, storing useful or interesting things is not a bad thing, but it is important to keep the volume and clutter of it all down.
Even just keeping things neatly organized can go a long way. The last thing we want when trying to find, “That one thing in that box somewhere,” is to end up buried or trapped under a mound of stuff calling for help.
To avoid this awkward scenario, you can do two simple things.
1. Stack boxes properly by size.
2. Store heavy items on the ground, not on shelves.
*Storage related injuries account for less than 1000 deaths annually.
**Numbers as according to the USDH, and CDC.
9: Food & Perishables
The first line of defense you have against these little pathogens is printed in plain sight for you, the expiration date. As a good practice, never consume food that has reached that threshold. Sure it may look and smell fine, but lets be honest, when is the last time you actually saw a bacterium?
The truth is, you can’t see them, so you don’t know what kind is on that food. There are literally thousands of bacteria that are harmful to humans, and any number of them could be on the food in question.
It is true that some of the most dangerous bacteria like salmonella, botulism , or yersinia are found in meats, and such infections are life threatening. Most people, however, are not aware that 69% of all serious food borne infections actually come from produce. That’s right, fruits and veggies are the most harmful source of food poisoning.
The source of produce poisoning is actually a surface issue. What we mean by that is that it comes from the skin or peel of what you are eating. You would be surprised to know just how many of your fruits and veggies are covered in the dreaded E. Coli bacteria. This is why it is so very important to wash your produce before consumption.
Not only does washing your produce remove any potentially harmful pesticides, it also removes the unwanted contagions. Quite frankly, you never know who or what has touched your food before you consume it. So, wash it first.
*This one would be higher on the list, but according to the CDC, 90% of all case are never reported, and less than half of the ones that are actually happen at home.
**Numbers and statistics as according to the CDC.
The leading culprits for electrical shock injuries in the home are surprisingly obvious. They include electrical fixtures (wall sockets, light switches, ceiling fans etc.), Television sets, microwaves, and other appliances.
*Most of the reported cases of electrocution nationwide are actually electricians on the job. Now, that may seem obvious to most, but let’s consider that for just a second.
The majority of electrical shocks happen to trained professionals, who are required to be certified for their job, and in some states to have a degree. These aren’t uneducated Joes, these are intelligent individuals who know proper safety protocol around electricity and spend most of their time around the dangerous energy.
The point that we are driving at is that you should never attempt to work with electricity unless you are trained to do so, and know what you are doing. In fact, in several states, you can actually be **fined for doing electrical work without the proper certification…even if it’s your work in your own home.
Electricity is dangerous stuff and should never be treated lightly.
Even if you are just checking something, and not actually repairing it, always disconnect the power source first. Never be overconfident with electricity.
*Statistics provided by OSHA
**The states that impose a fine , do so because of the high risk of injury, and damage to property. Electrical fires are the number one cause of house fires worldwide.
Thank you from the author
Thank you all for reading. I hope that you found this article to be interesting, and I hope that in some way it helps to make your home and your family safer.
See you in the next article.