IMPROVING YOUR HOME
What are the most common home safety hazards?
Being aware of hazards within your home is the first step to preventing them. Some of the most common hazards at home include fire, poisoning and allergies. There may also be risks posed by your home’s contents, such as falls, choking, cuts and burns. This is not an exhaustive list, so you may find it useful to do your own research and conduct a risk assessment of your home.
Hazards in the home
Fires at home can be highly dangerous, not only to your property but also to you and the people you live with. Be sure to have working smoke alarms in the house tested regularly, and a fire plan with safety protocols in place.
To reduce the risk of home fire, it’s important to:
- reduce flammable clutter, such as old boxes or paper
- never leave cooking unattended
- maintain any fireplaces and chimneys, with regular inspections from a professional, and
- assess electrical systems, and seek the assistance of an electrician if you notice frayed or loose wires.
Several household items present poisoning risks, such as cleaning and maintenance supplies, medications and petrol. Keeping these things locked away and out of reach of children can reduce the chance of them being accidentally ingested. And when storing these items, try not to keep chemicals or petrol in bottles that could be mistaken for something that’s drinkable, like a soft drink bottle.
Another hazard to be aware of is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur in homes with appliances that use fossil fuels, like gas. It’s very difficult to detect carbon monoxide, but you can reduce your risk of exposure by installing a carbon monoxide detector. Regular maintainance of appliances that might cause a leak, such as heaters and ovens, is also important.
Mould grows when water condenses onto surfaces, like walls and window frames, and is directly related to humidity within your home. If you have an allergy to mould, symptoms can include sneezing, itchy eyes and headaches.
To keep mould at bay, remove condensation from surfaces in your home, especially in damp areas like your bathroom and kitchen, and keep air vents clear. You may also benefit from using an air purifier.
Pools, and other water-related hazards such as bathtubs that aren’t properly secured or monitored, present a risk of drowning, especially for young children. Be alert when they’re in use and install a fence or another barrier around them for when they’re not.
Hazards caused by contents
In Australia, falls account for 40% of injuries requiring hospitalisation1. Accidents may happen where there is poor lighting, such as near stairs, and in areas that can become slippery, like your bathroom and kitchen.
It’s also worth being aware of:
- rugs or loose carpet
- clutter, and
- power cords.
You might even choose to wear rubber-soled shoes or bare feet around the house if your flooring is smooth; socks could put you at risk of a fall.
Choking and strangulation risks are a common hazard at home. Food that isn’t prepared well may present a risk. Try to cutting food into small bites, encourage your family or housemates to slow down while they eat, and consider pairing your meals with a non-alcoholic drink to moisten dry food.
In addition to food, there are objects in your home, such as cords and small toys, that could be dangerous. Consider doing a sweep around your home where children might be present, to ensure choking and strangulation hazards are out of the way.
Knowing about items that present a potential risk of cuts and scrapes can help you avoid them. From a tin lid in an open recycling bin to sharp outdoor tools, it’s useful to be aware of the risk so you can mitigate it. This might mean:
- ensuring your bins have a lid
- keeping kitchen tools, like sharp knives, stored safely
- pointing sharp items such as forks and knives down if you use a dishwasher
- installing a lock on your bathroom cupboard so items like razors can’t be accessed easily, and
- putting tools away.
Dishwashers and stoves are the most likely culprits when it comes to burn-related injuries. Installing a latch on your dishwasher, or using the back burners when you cook, may help to avoid them.
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The information is intended to be of general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.