How to prevent accidents in the home

Young girl stirring panLife is fraught with multiple potential hazards and you can't anticipate or prevent every danger that might befall your child around the house.

But what you can do is teach children to avoid doing dangerous things and create the conditions at home where accidents are less likely to happen. So, to help, we've combed the Talk boards for Mumsnetters' uber-sensible safety advice on how to prevent accidents in the home.

Kitchen

  • Install locks on kitchen cupboards or drawers that contain hazards (sharp objects, poisonous chemicals etc).
  • Always put knives and forks into the cutlery holder of the dishwasher with the blades or tines facing downward.
  • Keep sharp knives and implements out of children's reach.
  • Keep hot food and drinks away from the edges of tables and worktops.
  • Clean up slippery spillages or broken glasses and crockery immediately.
  • Always use the back of the hob when cooking and make sure pan handles are facing inwards.
  • If you don't have door stoppers to prevent slammed fingers, put a towel over the top of the door.
  • Treat vitamin pills like medicine - keep them out of sight.
  • Have a 'decoy drawer' or a 'decoy cupboard' and fill it with safe, too-big-to-swallow plastic containers, wooden spoons etc that young children can pull out and 'sort'.
  • Dishwasher tabs look like sweets but are caustic. Make sure all kitchen cupboards with chemicals in them are locked, or move all cleaners fluids etc to high shelves.
  • Position high chairs away from sinks and work surfaces.
  • Don't leave alcoholic drinks where curious children can taste them.

Bathroom

  • Always run the cold water first or both taps together when filling the bath - never run the hot water first.
  • Check the water temperature with your elbow before you allow young children to get in the bath. Teach older children to test the temperature of the water before they get into the bath or shower.
  • Empty toys out of the bath before your child gets out and always empty the bath immediately.
  • Never leave children alone at bath time, even for a minute, and make sure razors/scissors etc are out of reach.
  • Teach children to dry their hands before switching the bathroom light on and off.
  • Put all non-toxic stuff under the basin and all razors and medicines in a cabinet.

Living room and bedrooms

  • Block off plugged-in appliances with furniture if possible, and obscure cables.
  • Work on the principle that if a cable can be pulled, it will be.
  • Fix furniture (chests of drawers, bookcases, wardrobes, ladder desks) to walls if there's any chance it could topple if climbed on. Also secure TVs that could fall.
  • Tie up any dangling blind cords, and put away scarfs, skipping ropes etc.
  • Make sure glass doors or floor-level windows are fitted with safety glass or protective anti-shatter film.
  • Unplug hairdryers, straighteners, curling tongs etc immediately after use and put them somewhere out of reach to cool down.
  • Never leave a small child to play unsupervised in your bedroom.
  • Fit restrictors to windows, so that they can only be opened a few centimetres.

Stairs

  • Install stairgates at the top and bottom of stairs – and make sure they're closed when they need to be.
  • If possible, always open an upstairs stairgate onto the landing, not onto the stairs.
  • Stairgates are also useful across the entrance to the kitchen.
  • If gaps between the spindles in banisters are more than 10cm (4in), cover with board or safety netting.

Garden

  • Make sure any sharp garden tools are out of children's reach and that lawn mowers, hedge cutters etc have circuit breakers and are never left plugged in when not in use.
  • Keep weedkiller, slug pellets etc out of reach.
  • Children can be seriously injured in even short falls, so if there are any drops in your garden, fence them off.
  • Fence or drain and fill in garden ponds. Empty paddling pools when not in use.
  • Keep children away from BBQs.
  • Keep washing lines above children's heads and don't position play equipment near washing lines, or take the line down when children are playing.
  • If it's feasible, 'sink' the trampoline so that it's at ground level. If it's not, have a safety net.
  • Check garden play equipment regularly and tighten any loose fastenings.
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General safety advice

  • Don't let your child run around with a lollipop, pencil etc in their mouth, or carrying scissors or sharp objects.
  • Turn your hot water thermostat down, so that water is only hand hot.
  • Keep plastic bags and nappy sacks out of children's reach.
  • Make sure your electrical wiring has RCD breakers fitted.
  • Think of where you could safely leave your toddler or young child alone in the house if there was an emergency that meant you had to leave them alone. If such a space doesn't exist, try to create it.
  • If you have toddlers or young children, lock external doors, including doors on to any balconies.
  • Teach children from a young age that ovens, radiators, kettles, light bulbs, water etc can be hot.
  • Don't use plug covers because then the live pins are 'on' permanently. If the cover is put in upside down, children can poke their fingers into other holes and touch the live current. Without the cover, they have to push the safety catch in the earth socket first.
  • Cultivate a terrifying voice that you only deploy for 'Stop' and 'No' when your child is in danger.
  • Keep your car keys secure, so that children can't get into the car without you knowing.
  • Fit smoke alarms on every floor of your house and test them regularly.
  • Tell children never to answer the door without telling you first.
  • Have a drill in case of fire, but stress to children that they mustn't practise it without you there.

And finally

Children grow - and move - alarmingly quickly and there's a corresponding surge in their capacity to get themselves into potentially dangerous situations with each developmental leap. Keep reviewing your household safety as your children grow.

And if we've missed something vital, do let us know

Image: Shutterstock

Last updated: 25-Jun-2013 at 9:58 AM