Occupational Health & Safety

Study Identifies Home Safety Practices, Perceptions

WHILE a majority of U.S. adults think about home safety often, very few actually take action to make their home safer from the five leading causes of home injury -- falls, poisonings, fires and burns, choking/suffocation and drowning.

The findings are a result of a new survey conducted as part of the Home Safety Council's Hands on Home Safety campaign. The survey polled U.S. adults to reveal the public's level of awareness around the most common home dangers and determine the safety actions they have taken to protect themselves and their families.

While the majority of U.S. adults (82 percent) indicated that they are very knowledgeable or somewhat knowledgeable about what they can do to make their homes safer, only one-third (36 percent) were able to name a safety action they have already taken. The survey also found that more than a quarter (26 percent) of U.S. adults said they are not worried that an injury may occur in their own home.

"These findings speak directly to the need for additional education to increase the public's level of awareness around the leading causes of home injury and the actions they can take to protect against injury risks," said Angela Mickalide, director of education and outreach for the Home Safety Council. "Each year in our nation home-related injuries result in nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits, many of which are almost entirely avoidable with proper education and a few simple home modifications."

Falls Prevention:

Key Findings: When asked to identify which type of injury they are most worried might happen in the home, only about one-fifth (19 percent) of survey respondents were concerned about falls -- the leading cause of home injury death.

Home Safety Tips:

  • Have grab bars in the tub and shower.
  • Have bright lights over stairs and steps and on landings.
  • Have handrails on both sides of the stairs and steps.
  • Use a ladder for climbing instead of a stool or furniture.
  • Use baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, if babies or toddlers live in or visit your home.

Poisoning Prevention:

Key Findings: Poisonings are the second-leading cause of home injury, yet less than one-fifth of U.S. adults (18 percent) have put safety locks on their cabinets or posted the Poison Control Hotline on or near all phones. Just more than one-third (39 percent) of survey respondents indicated that they have installed carbon-monoxide detectors near sleeping areas in their homes.

Home Safety Tips:

  • Lock poisons, cleaners, medications and all dangerous items in a place where children can't reach them.
  • Keep all cleaners in their original containers. Do not mix them together.
  • Use medications carefully. Follow the directions. Use child resistant lids.
  • Install carbon-monoxide detectors near sleeping areas.
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if someone takes poison. This number will connect you to emergency help in your area.

Home Fire Safety:

Key Findings: Fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional home injury death and account for 3,400 fatalities each year. The new survey found that while almost all U.S. adults (93 percent) have a smoke alarm in their home, only one-quarter (26 percent) have a fire escape plan in place.

Home Fire Safety Tips:

  • Have working smoke alarms and hold fire drills. If you build a new home, install fire sprinklers.
  • Stay by the stove when cooking, especially when you are frying food.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside. Use deep ashtrays and put water in them before you empty them. Lock matches and lighters in a place where children can't reach them.
  • Only light candles when an adult is in the room. Blow the candle out if you leave the room or go to sleep.

Choking & Suffocation Prevention:

Key Findings: Home Safety Council research shows that choking/suffocation is the second leading cause of home injury death for children under the age of 14 and the fourth leading cause overall. When asked about safety behaviors followed in the home, the new survey revealed that only 39 percent of respondents require children to be seated while eating, putting them at risk for choking.

Home Safety Tips:

  • Things that can fit through a toilet paper tube can cause a young child to choke. Keep coins, latex balloons and hard round foods, such as peanuts and hard candy, out of children's reach.
  • Place children to bed on their backs. Don't put pillows, comforters or toys in cribs.
  • Clip the loops in window cords and place them up high where children can't get them.
  • Read the labels on all toys, especially if they have small parts. Be sure that your child is old enough to play with them.
  • Tell children to sit down when they eat and to take small bites.

Water Safety:

Key Findings: Drowning presents a sudden and silent danger, yet according to the new survey, less than half (49 percent) of U.S. adults actively supervise children when they are in or near water.

Water Safety Tips:

  • Stay within an arm's length of children in and around water. This includes bathtubs, toilets, pools and spas -- even buckets of water.
  • Put a high fence all the way around your pool or spa. Always keep the gate closed and locked.
  • Empty large buckets and wading pools after using them. Keep them upside down when not in use.
  • Make sure your children always swim with a grownup. No child or adult should swim alone.
  • Keep your hot water at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent burns.

For more information on ways to avoid injuries and protect loved ones in and around your home, visit http://www.homesafetycouncil.org.

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