Tips: Preventing Falls in the Home

EVERYONE falls down, but usually without harming more than their pride. However, national home injury statistics show that falls are a more serious public health problem than many may expect. Home Safety Council research finds that nearly 5.1 million people in America are injured by falls in and around the home on average each year.

However, the majority of U.S. adults fail to identify falls as a serious home danger. A new home safety survey conducted by the national nonprofit Home Safety Council reveals that less than 20 percent of U.S. adults identified falls as their top home safety concern.

"Everyone knows how quickly and easily a fall can happen, yet most don't realize how frequently a fall at home becomes a life-changing event -- and may have permanent and serious consequences," said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. "Our survey shows a dangerous lack of concern for falls among adults, and we believe that may keep families from putting simple falls- prevention practices in place at home."

To help raise awareness for this important public health issue and reduce falls among people of all ages, the Home Safety Council is encouraging families to follow a few simple home safety tips to protect against falls in and around the home.

Prevent Falls Inside the Home

The Home Safety Council found that critical falls-prevention measures are missing from the majority of homes in America. According to recent research, less than half of U.S. adults (48 percent) have proper lighting at the top and bottom of stairs, less than a quarter (24 percent) have installed grab bars in the shower, and only 22 percent have handrails on both sides of the stairs.

Families can take the first step toward falls prevention by conducting a home safety walk through and fixing potential falling hazards within the home.

Bathroom Safety

  • Have grab bars in the tub and shower.
  • Have a non-slip mat or strips in the tub and shower.
  • Have a bath mat with a non-skid bottom on the bathroom floor.
  • Wipe up spills when they happen.
  • Have nightlights in the bedroom, hall and bathroom.

Stairway Safety

  • Have handrails on both sides of stairs and steps. Make sure handrails go from the top to the bottom of stairs.
  • Have bright lights over stairs and steps and on landings.
  • It is easy to trip on small rugs. Tape them to the floor or do not use them at all.
  • Keep the stairs clear.
  • Use baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, if babies or toddlers live in or visit your home.

Protect Against Outdoor Falls

While it's important to remedy indoor falling hazards, plenty of additional falling hazards can be found right outside the front door. In fact, when asked to identify the area where falls are of most concern, four in 10 U.S. adults named the risk of falling outside while using a ladder or on the front porch or walkway.

The Home Safety Council recommends adopting the following safety practices to prevent outdoor falls:

Porch/Walkway Safety

  • Have handrails on both sides of stairs and steps.
  • Put bright lights over all porches and walkways.
  • Keep sidewalks and paths clear.
  • Fix broken or chipped steps and walkways as soon as possible.

Ladder Safety

  • Before using a ladder outdoors, choose a location that is well away from all power lines and on level ground.
  • Use the four-to-one rule for extension ladders: for each four feet of distance between the ground and the upper point of contact (such as the wall or roof), move the base of the ladder out one foot.
  • Stand at or below the highest safe standing level on a ladder. For a stepladder, the safe standing level is the second rung from the top, and for an extension ladder, it's the fourth rung from the top.

Playground Safety

  • Cover areas under and around play equipment with soft materials such as hardwood chips, mulch, pea gravel and sand. Materials should be 9 to 12 inches deep and extend six feet from all sides of play equipment.
  • Avoid elevated platforms, walkways or ramps on playgrounds that lack adequate guardrails or other barriers.
  • Be aware of tripping hazards, such as rocks and exposed roots. Clear this debris from your child's play area.
  • Always supervise children when they are using playground equipment.

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