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Home safety tips to share with your family

Keeping children safe

As they grow from toddler to school-aged child, most children begin to develop an understanding of the types of things that can be dangerous (e.g. that the oven is hot and that knives are sharp) but don't always understand what they need to do to keep safe. Keep pointing out possible dangers, explaining how these can harm someone and what needs to be done to keep everybody safer.

At an age you feel appropriate, show your children how to use or handle potentially dangerous objects, like scissors, safely and make time to help them practise and develop their skills.

Parents are powerful role models. Demonstrate safe behaviour to your children (e.g. keeping the floor tidy, handling sharp objects carefully, using oven gloves to get things out of the hot oven) and talk about what you're doing to keep safe.

Top ten home safety tips

  1. Always keep floors/stairs clear – put toys away; clean up spills, broken glass, etc. quickly
  2. Use secure stepladders to reach high items
  3. Don't leave heavy things, which could fall on you, on edges of shelves
  4. Keep knives, scissors or sharp tools in drawers, away from young children
  5. Never leave open flames (gas/fire/candles/barbecues) unattended - they could set things alight
  6. Don't leave saucepan handles sticking out on the hob or boiling liquid unattended
  7. Make sure you run the cold water tap in a bath before the hot, so the water is less likely to scald
  8. Have a working smoke alarm on each level of the house
  9. Keep all cleaning products and medicines locked away, out of the reach of young children
  10. Always wash hands before touching food and make sure the family always wash their hands after using the toilet.

Here are some more detailed home safety tips, divided into: Trips, Slips and Falls; Fire and Heat; Sharp Things; Poisons.

Home safety tips: Trips, slips and falls

Stairs

Stop children from playing on or near stairs, or climbing through or over the banisters.

Make sure hallways and staircases are well lit.

Encourage family members not to leave toys, books, bags, shoes or anything else on or around stairs.

Teach children to hold the handrail when going up and down stairs.

Heights

Keep low furniture away from windows and fit window locks or safety catches.

The top bunk of bunk beds is not recommended for children under six years old.

If you have a balcony, never let children play there alone, or climb or lean over the rails.

Instead of using stools to reach heights, use a secure ladder or stepladder, and ask a friend to hold the bottom of it.

Do not allow children to climb on roofs, sheds, outbuildings and fences.

Make sure all outdoor play equipment is placed over something soft (e.g. bark, grass or matting) and ensure it is in good condition and fitted securely.

Trips and falls

Unplug appliances with cables that could be tripped over and store the cable out of the way.

Check mats and rugs are not worn, uneven or curled up. On smooth flooring, use anti slip pads.

Make sure children wear the proper safety equipment when using bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, skates, etc.

Warn children never to run with anything in their mouths or when carrying anything sharp, pointed or made of glass.

And make sure they tie their shoelaces.

Water

Warn children about the dangers of water and drowning (even in shallow water) and that they can lose consciousness if they fall and bump their head.

Teach children to walk, not run, on wet surfaces, or near baths, pools, ponds, etc.

Use a non-slip bath mat in the bath or shower base.

Mop up spills straight away.

Things falling

Be careful not to leave hot or heavy things near the edge of tables or desks, or in places where they might fall or be pulled over.

Home safety tips: Fire and heat

Kitchen heat

When you are cooking, use the rings at the back of the cooker first and turn pan handles towards the back.

Turn the heat down or off if you have to pop out of the kitchen.

If you use a chip fryer, never leave it unattended or fill it more than a third full.

Keep flammables, like tea towels, and cables away from the heat.

Electrical appliances

Do not overload electrical sockets; one plug per socket is safest.

Watch out for trailing cables; consider using cordless appliances.

Check electrical plugs, sockets and cables for scorching or fraying; make sure they are properly insulated.

Avoid running your washing machine or dishwasher overnight; an electrical fault could cause a fire while your family is asleep.

Unplug electrical appliances when they're not in use (other than those designed to stay on, like refrigerators).

Warn children never to touch electrical items with wet hands.

Never use mains-powered electrical appliances (e.g. CD players, hairdryers, heaters) in the bathroom or near water.

Never leave an iron or hair straighteners unattended while they are on, and place them out of children's reach to cool down.

Always use a residual-current device (RCD), which cuts off the electric current if there's a fault or problem, when using electrical garden equipment or DIY tools.

Scalds

Be careful to place hot drinks out of reach of children, and where they won't be knocked or fall.

Make sure young children are supervised if they're in the bathroom or kitchen.

Always run the cold tap first and then just add as much hot water as needed, and test bathwater with your elbow first.

Consider getting a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) fitted to your tap, to control the water temperature.

Fire prevention and safety

You need a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home – upstairs as well as downstairs – to warn you quickly if a fire starts. Test them every week to check that they're working, and don't remove the batteries for any reason.

As a family, plan a fire escape route and practise it (see downloadable fact sheet – Family Emergency Escape Plan).

Use fireguards to stop children falling onto fires or heaters, and never place clothes or toys on them.

Try to have fire blankets and extinguishers in kitchens in case of emergencies.

Keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.

Avoid smoking in the home, but if you must smoke, always use a proper ashtray, placed where it cannot be knocked over.

Watch where you place candles. Keep them away from anything flammable and only have them lit if an adult is in the room. Don't put night lights or tea lights on a plastic surface.

Keep keys to doors and windows where family members can find them quickly and easily in an emergency.

Never leave barbecues, patio heaters or open fires unsupervised.

Make sure you're familiar with basic first aid in treating burns (e.g. keeping the burn in cold water for at least ten minutes).

In the event of a fire, stay low, get out, stay out and call 999 (see downloadable fact sheet – Making an Emergency Call).

If a person's clothing catches alight, they should stop, drop and roll.

Home safety tips: Sharp things

Knives and household items

Keep knives, forks, scissors, and other sharp utensils in a drawer with a safety catch.

Teach older children how to use scissors and knives safely – and supervise their use.

When washing up or loading and unloading the dishwasher, be careful when handling sharp utensils or glass items.

Never leave razors or spare blades where children might get hold of them.

Keep sharp office equipment (e.g. paper shredders, staplers, compasses, pencil sharpeners) and sewing equipment (e.g. needles, pins) out of the reach of small children.

Store all DIY and gardening tools securely. Remember that heavy sharp items are particularly dangerous if they're dropped.

Broken glass

Keep glass items (e.g. drinking glasses, casserole dishes, vases) out of reach.

Wherever possible use safety glass in doors and windows - especially at a low level.

Make sure that mirrors are well hung or securely attached to the wall.

Be careful where you place vases and photo frames so they are out of reach of small children.

If you recycle glass and metal, keep the recycling containers out of reach.

Always clear up broken glass quickly and dispose of it safely.

Electrical blades

Warn children that electrical appliances with blades (e.g. blenders, carving knives, hedge trimmers) are especially dangerous, as they're heavy and the blade moves very quickly.

Keep anything with sharp blades out of reach, preferably in a secure cupboard or locked shed.

Sharp edges

Make sure furniture outdoor play equipment is in a safe condition with no sharp edges.

Remind children that some plants have sharp thorns or prickles.

Remind children that the edges of tin cans and even paper can cut them.

Home safety tips: Poisons

Household products and chemicals

Keep all poisons (e.g. cleaning products, shampoos, cremes, batteries, sprays) locked away or on high up shelves – where they are out of reach and out of sight.

Keep garages and sheds locked so children don't have access to hazardous materials (e.g. fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, rat poisons, weed killers, pesticides, motor oil, anti-freeze, batteries, brake fluid, degreaser, paint, glue, white spirits, rust remover, varnish and wood preservative).

If you keep cleaning supplies, including dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquids under the sink, make sure the cupboard is kept locked.

Remember that child-resistant bottle tops are not completely child-proof.

Toiletries and make-up are magnets for children. Be really careful with perfume, hair dye, hairspray, nail polish, and nail polish remover - put them out of reach.

Always store chemicals in their original, labelled containers.

Keep alcohol and cigarettes well away from children's reach.

Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can't see it, hear it, smell it or taste it. Fit carbon monoxide detectors if you have a gas boiler or fuel-burning stove or appliance.

Get rid of unwanted chemicals safely. Contact your local council for advice on what to do.

Medicines

Medicines can look like sweeties to young children. Avoid keeping medicines in your handbag or bedside drawer; make sure they're safely locked away.

Children learn by imitating adults. So take your own medicine when they aren't watching.

Food poisoning

Teach children that food can be poisonous too, if it's dirty, not fresh or not cooked properly.

Always wash your hands before touching food and encourage the family to wash their hands before eating.

Keep food preparation areas clean and disinfected.

Store food at the recommended temperature and cover it if it's left out.

Look at the 'use by' date to make sure food is fresh.

Make sure that 'risky' foods like chicken, rice, eggs, etc are cooked thoroughly and always check if they are safe to be reheated.

Teach children never to eat plants, mushrooms or berries in the garden before checking with an adult.

Always follow instructions for defrosting food so that it is ready to eat safely.