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Home safety

safety; home; kitchen; laundry; bedroom; garden; swimming; pool; kitchen; power; point; saucepan; stove; guard; play; trampoline; pram; bouncinet; bouncinette; stroller; stair; balcony; balconies; balustrade; fall; handrail; steps; fire; smoking; tobacco; cigarettes; walkers; injury; injuries; television; sets; treadmills; blinds; curtain; cords; strangle;

Contents

This topic focuses on home safety.
The topic 'Child safety' has more ideas about keeping children safe in many places.

There are lots of things parents can do to make homes safe for children. You might like to use the ideas here as a check list that you can go through to make sure your home is safe.

Kidsafe SA also has a home safety checklist.

General safety

  • Have emergency numbers for police, doctor and ambulance, fire brigade and poison information near the phone at all times.
  • If you use baby sitters, have your own home phone number and address by the phone so that they can tell emergency services if they need to call for help.
  • Keep all poisons out of reach, preferably in a 'child proof' cupboard.
  • Do not leave a young child alone in the house. Children under about 12 should probably not be left alone at home, and they certainly cannot be expected to keep younger children safe.
  • Have a first aid kit in the house and car.
  • Install smoke alarms at strategic places, eg outside the kitchen, inside the children’s bedrooms.
  • Keep keys in the lock of deadlocked doors when you are in the house, so you can get out quickly if there is a fire.
  • Install an Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker in your fuse box which will cut off the electricity supply if there is a fault.
  • Old houses may have faulty electrical wiring that needs to be checked and replaced.
  • Cover all unused power points with a child safety cover.
  • Unplug electrical appliances when they are not being used.
  • Ensure that all glass doors, shower screens and low windows are fitted with safety glass.
  • Ensure that floors which get wet have non-slip surfaces.
  • Doors that are likely to slam and jam fingers should be fitted with door-closers. Place finger jam protectors in doors.
  • Make sure that cupboard edges in children's areas are rounded.
  • In a multi-story house, ensure that windows are fixed so that children cannot get out of them, and that all balconies have adequate barriers (vertical bars for example, not horizontal which are easily climbed).
  • Keep all matches, lighters and candles out of reach of children.
  • Develop a plan for what to do if there is a fire and teach your children what they should do. See the link to the Country Fire Service below.

Do a first aid course so you will know what to do in an emergency.

Making each part of your home safe

When you have young children it is important to do a safety check on every room of your house and the yard and sheds. A good time is when they are about to start crawling, if not before. You can use the following information as a checklist. Don’t forget grandparents’ homes as well if your children spend time there.

Kitchen

  • Place a moveable (half height) barrier across the doorway to keep children out while your are cooking.
  • Don't have dangling kettle cords - use short cords or curly ones.
  • Don't leave saucepan handles overhanging the edge of the stove so a child could reach them.
  • Use a stove/hot plate guard.

picture of kitchen

  • Put hot drinks out of reach of children.
  • Do not drink a hot drink with a child in your arms.
  • Replace table cloths with place mats as children can be scalded by pulling on the tablecloth and spilling hot drinks on themselves.
  • Lock away all poisonous substances, including detergents and dish washer powder.
  • Use child proof locks on cupboards.
  • Don’t put any poisons (eg cleaning agents) in food or drink containers.
  • When your baby or young child is in a high chair, always strap her in with proper restraints.
  • Keep matches, cigarette lighters, scissors and knives out of reach of children.
  • Prevent your young child from choking by constantly checking to see there are no small objects on the floor for her to put in her mouth. Babies from 6 months are able to pick up small objects and they put most things into their mouths (see the topic 'Choking').

Laundry

  • Keep nappy buckets securely closed and up high where toddlers can't get to them.
  • Keep detergents and poisonous substances in a locked cupboard.
  • Don't leave buckets of water on the floor.
  • Use a child proof gate to prevent children getting into the laundry.

Bathroom

  • Don’t allow your child to play in the bathroom without supervision. There is the danger of the child
    • drowning in a small amount of water
    • being scalded with hot water
    • electrocution from putting or dropping an electrical appliance eg hair drier in water.
  • Do not leave a baby by herself in a bath seat or bath cradle. Babies have drowned when they sipped through the holes in the bath seat or when the seat tipped over.
  • Keep all medicines in a child proof, locked cupboard.
  • When running the bath for your child, put the cold water in first.
  • To help prevent scalding from hot water, make sure that the water from your bathroom tub, shower and basin comes out at 50 degrees or less.
    • You can attach a safety shut-off device directly to the tap, or your plumber can install a device which mixes cold water with the hot, to limit the temperature.
    • The water heater itself should maintain stored water at 60 degrees minimum to make sure no bacteria (eg legionella) can live in the system.
  • Always unplug any electrical appliances eg hair dryers, heaters etc. It is best not to leave them in the bathroom.
  • Never leave a small child alone in the bath. If you have to leave the room, eg to answer the phone, take the child with you.

Nursery - baby's room and equipment

Safe sleep

For information about safe sleep (cots, mattresses, cradles, etc see the topic 'Safe sleep for babies and toddlers')

Windows

  • Make sure that children cannot open and get out of, or fall out of, windows.
  • Do not place the baby’s cot near windows, heater or power points.
  • Make sure cords of curtains or blinds are short (less than 20cm), so that a child cannot get caught in the cord and choke. If the cord needs to be long, keep it out of reach by wrapping it around a high hook. For more ideas have a look at the topic 'Safety - blinds and curtains'.

 High Chairs

  • High chairs should be fitted with straps between the legs, over both shoulders and around the waist. (You can buy the harness separately from the chair).
  • Make sure that the high chair is strong and will not tip easily.
  • Never leave a child in a high chair without an adult being there.
  • Make sure the baby cannot reach doors, windows, stoves, cords etc from the high chair.
  • Repair torn seats as babies can choke on pieces of foam.

 Change Tables

  • Change tables should have protection against rolling off, eg raised sides.
  • Do not leave the baby on the change table. If you need to do something urgent, take the baby with you.

Strollers and bouncinettes

  • Do not leave babies alone in a bouncinette, pram (see below) or stroller.
  • Make sure that a pram or stroller meets the Australian Standard (have a look at the topic 'Prams and strollers'.
  • Make sure the baby cannot slide out and get caught, and strangle.
  • Make sure the stroller has a strong footrest, which can't collapse.
  • If straps are used to hold the baby, make sure that they fit firmly, and the baby can't get caught in them.
  • Babies under 6 months should not be put in a stroller unless the backrest can be adjusted to an angle of more than 130 degrees from the seat (it is almost flat, rather than sitting upright).
  • Bouncinettes should not be used after babies begin to roll over.

Prams

  • Some babies have had serious accidents when left by themselves in prams.
  • Choose a pram or stroller that has an Australian Standard label.  If you are not sure ask the shop staff.
  • Do not overload strollers or prams so they are in danger of tipping over, eg with shopping.

The Australian Standard for "Safety of prams and strollers" requires that prams and strollers should bear a permanent label with a warning that children should not be left unattended in a stroller or pram. Putting a baby in a pram or stroller so that you can rock the baby, or go for a walk, can help to settle a crying baby, but an awake or sleeping baby should not be left unattended in a pram or stroller.

Baby Walkers

It is strongly advised that you do not use baby walkers.

Toy Boxes

See the topic 'Toy safety'

Playpens and Barriers

  • Choose a heavy play pen that will not tip over if your child leans on it.
  • Playpens should be more that 500mm high and the spaces between the side bars should be between 50mm and 85mm. Children can get their arms or legs trapped in gaps narrower than 50mm, and their heads trapped in spaces over 85mm.

Remember that children need to explore and too long in a playpen can become boring.

Bedrooms

  • Check the mattress fits snugly in your child’s cot.
  • Check that the spaces between the vertical bars on the sides and ends of the cot are between 50mm and 85 mm (which is too big for an arm or leg to be caught, and too small for a head to be caught). Bars should be vertical and not horizontal so a toddler cannot use them to climb out. See the topic Cots for the cot safety standards.
  • Do not place cots near dangling cords such as blind cords which can cause a risk of choking. Make sure that blinds and curtains do not have cords, or cords are short or always out of reach. Have a look at the topic 'Safety - blinds and curtains'.
  • Do not use bunk beds if there is a toddler or child (under 9 years) in the home. Children love to climb and may fall off the top bunk during play.  Have a look at the information from Product Safety Australia 'Bunk bed safety' 
    http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/974806/fromItemId/974795
  • Do not use hot water bottles or electric blankets in a child’s cot or bed.
  • Do not leave pills/medicines on your bedside table or in a handbag that children can get to.

Ceiling fans
If you have a ceiling fan it is important to check that children cannot hit it if they jump off any furniture (especially bunk beds). Also be aware that such activities as carrying children on your shoulders can bring them within reach of the fan. Having 'impeller guards' on fans in children’s rooms is a further safety measure to consider.

Lounge and dining rooms

  • Check visitors do not leave handbags with medicines in them where a child can get to them.
  • Place safety guards around all heaters, open fires etc.
  • Cover power points with child safety covers.
  • Make sure that TV sets are not on stands or tables where young children could pull them down on themselves.  Make sure that shelves, such as bookshelves are secured or stable.
  • Have low level storage places for children's toys.
  • Fit fire guards around all heating appliances or fire places.

There is more information about furniture hazards, and in particular hazards from television sets in the Safety Alert 'Household furniture hazards for kids' published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission'.

Blind and curtain cords

Loose blind and curtain cords can kill - fix them out of reach so kids are out of danger. (ACCC 2011)

Blind and curtain cords pose a serious risk for babies and young children – particularly for children under 6 years old.

  • Children can place their head in the loop created by a blind cord, or get tangled in long cords, when playing near cords or sleeping in a cot where cords are hanging. If children then try to sit or if they fall down they can strangle themsleves.
  • The cord or chain loop used to open and close vertical blinds can also strangle children.

For more information: 

Stairs balconies and verandahs

  • If you have stairs or balconies or verandahs in your home that are higher than 600 mm there must be protection to prevent children falling from these.
  • Balustrades (or hand rails) on stairs must be at least 865 mm high. Where they are used on verandahs or balconies or raised paths they should be at least 1000 mm high.
  • Where children could fall more than 3 metres the balustrades on stairs must be at least 1050 mm high and on balconies and landings at least 1200 mm. 1350 mm is safer.
    stair safety
    Copyright by permission Kidsafe
  • Where the balustrade is high there should be a lower handrail as well. Handrails should be made so a child’s hand can slide along them without meeting any obstacles.
  • Make sure the gaps between the rails below the balustrade are no more than 100 mm.
  • The surface of stairs should be non-slip.
  • Softening and rounding sharp edges on stairs will help to lessen the harm done by a fall.
  • Young children should be protected from falling down stairs by lockable gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.
    stair safety
    Copyright by permission Kidsafe

Garage/garden/outside area

  • Check fences and gates are adequate to prevent your young child being able to get to the pool, street or other dangers. Gates and fences should not have horizontal rails which would make it easy for the child to climb over.
  • Lock your garage to make sure any dangerous tools or poisonous substances cannot be reached by a toddler.
  • Do not store poisons in food containers. Keep them in the original container which has warnings and safety precautions on it.
  • Power tools should be locked away when not in use.
  • Make sure your outdoor barbeque cannot be turned on by children.
  • Check there are no matches or cigarette lighters where a child could find them.
  • Place ladders flat on the ground when not in use if they cannot be put in a locked shed.
  • Check the whereabouts of your child before backing the car out of the garage etc. Do not have play areas (eg sandpits) near driveways.
  • When planning play spaces in your yard, keep children's areas well away from the driveway, fenced off if possible.
  • Cover a fish pond with strong wire mesh so your child cannot fall in.
  • Make sure there are no other pools of water or things that hold water after a rain in your yard.
  • Remove poisonous plants from your garden.
  • Do not put out snail pellets, these look attractive to children to eat.
  • Clear away rubbish that could hide poisonous spiders.
  • Keep children inside or well away from the area while you are cutting the grass (mowing).

Swimming pool

  • Ensure that your pool has isolation fencing. Make sure the fencing and gates around the pool meet the Australian standard (AS 1926). The gate should be self locking.
  • Always supervise children when they are playing near a pool or any water. Lack of supervision is one of the main causes of drowning.
  • Remember that most children who drown, do so in their family pool.
  • Fencing which stops others getting to the pool is not enough, you need a fence between the house and the pool.

See the topic 'Water safety' for more information, including information about babies in pools.

Trampolines

Trampoline injuries

  • Trampolines are a common cause of injury and have caused deaths in children and young people.
  • Most trampoline injuries have happened when using home trampolines.
  • Common causes of injuries include landing incorrectly when jumping, falling from the trampoline onto the ground, hitting the frame and bumping into someone else on the trampoline.
  • The most common injuries from trampolines are broken arms or legs and then head injuries.

Recommendations

  • Medical experts have stated that it is not safe to have trampolines at home, either inside or outside the house.
  • Trampolines should not be used as play equipment.
  • Trampolines may be used under the supervision of trained individuals for some sports training and they have some medical uses to help recovery from certain injuries.

Using trampolines for specific issues

  • Trampoline use should always be supervised by someone trained in trampoline safety.
  • Only one person should use the trampoline at a time.
  • Children under 6 years of age should not use trampolines even in supervised programs.

Treadmills

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a warning about the safety of domestic treadmills. Over the last 3 years more than 100 serious accidents associated with treadmills have occurred in Australian homes. Young children are at risk.

  • Injuries have occurred when children have made contact with the walking tread when it was in motion. This has caused serious skin burns and some children have needed skin grafts.
  • Children have also climbed on treadmills in use and been thrown off.
  • One child has been injured when a folded treadmill fell on top of the child.

Injures generally occur faster than the treadmill user can react.

For more information about the risks, how to prevent an injury, and a safety checklist have a look at the brochure on the ACCC website - 'Domestic treadmills safety alert'.

See also the brochure 'Learn or burn - treadmill burns' (PDF 304kb) - developed by the SA Health, Women's and Children's Hospital Burns Service, Royal Adelaide Hospital Burns unit, Child and Youth Health, Kidsafe.

Resources

Australia

South Australia

  • South Australian Kidsafe Centre
    C/- Women's & Children's Hospital
    72 King William Road
    North Adelaide SA 5006
    Tel: (08) 8161 6318
    Fax: (08) 8161 6162
    Email: sa@kidsafe.org.au
  • Country Fire Service (South Australia)
    http://www.cfs.org.au/  

Download the brochure:
PDF document Learn or burn- Cooking safety (262kb)

References and further reading

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 'Baby walker safety - safety alert' http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/646278

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 'Keeping baby safe' 
http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/972363 

Hazard, the quarterly journal of the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit. Information about injuries and their prevention is disseminated through this publication. The issues reviewed in Hazard are chosen because of a combination of the severity, frequency and preventability of the injury type.
http://www.monash.edu.au/muarc/VISU/hazard/index.html

Kidsafe
http://www.kidsafe.com.au/

Monash University Injury Research Institute 
http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/index.html 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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