How to make sure your home is baby safe

In one year, there were 416,806 accidents inside the home affecting 0-4 year olds. Of these, 192,167 were caused by falls from height, 25,789 were caused by burns and scalds, 72,734 were caused by striking contact, 31,919 were from crushing or piercing. 2,276 of the indoor accidents affecting 0-4 year olds were caused by the TV, 34,297 were caused by stairs. Those statistics come from the Home & Leisure Accident Surveillance System (HASS) 2002.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, RoSPA, says on its website, “Those most at risk from a home accident are the 0-4 years age group. Falls account for the majority of non-fatal accidents while the highest number of deaths are due to fire. Most of these accidents are preventable through increased awareness, improvements in the home environment and greater product safety.

“Every year more than 67,000 children experience an accident in the kitchen – 43,000 of these are aged 0-4 years; 58,000 children have accidents on the stairs.”

Many accidents are caused by horseplay involving pushing, shoving and wrestling. Children have also died or have been seriously injured by heavy objects such as furniture and televisions being pushed or pulled over them. Sets of drawers, in a child’s eyes, make ideal climbing frames but, if unsecured, they pull over easily.

With these scary statistics in mind, Baby Safe Homes points out some common hazards to watch out for in the modern home.

Flat Screen TVs unsecured
These are heavy and often within easy reach of a toddler, on furniture which is unstable or easily climbed.  If not mounted on a wall, TVs can be pulled over by a curious toddler.  This risk has been overlooked in every home visited by Baby Safe Homes to date.

Complex stairs
RoSPA reports that the most severe accidents to children in the home are caused by falls from height. Many homes have unique, complex stairs, eg spirals, open tread, or wooden and slippery, each presenting a unique and significant risk to toddlers if no barrier is in place to stop a child going up or down.

Pressure gates at the top of stairs – unstable and a trip hazard
Pressure gates are popular, as they are easy to fit and don’t require any drilling, however, they create a dangerous trip hazard, particularly for sleep-deprived parents. Screw-fit gates are a safer option and drilling can often be avoided by using bannister post bracket kits.

Heated Towel Rails – A burn hazard
A heated towel rail could be a burn hazard, especially for a toddler that likes to hold on to things to pull themselves up, or cruise along. If there is no way of regulating the temperature of the towel rail, it should be turned off.

Book shelves and storage units unsecured
Many UK homes struggle with lack of storage and this becomes more acute when babies arrive, with a plethora of toys and baby equipment. While there are many cheap and easily assembled shelving units available, they aren’t always stable, but can be secured safely.

Baby Safe Homes UK recommends parents stay slightly ahead of their child’s development, for example putting stair gates in when the child looks ready to crawl.  It’s better to take the time to adjust to the equipment before it’s absolutely necessary.

When deciding how long to keep gates in place, every child is different. Once a child is confident on stairs and can be relied upon to hold on to the bannister, parents should consider allowing more access. Most children are ready for this after their third birthday. Anything that the child has found a way to get around, should be removed immediately.

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