Importance of Identifying Hazards in Your Home
When you think about home hazards, you probably imagine industrial workplaces or construction sites. But the danger of injury from hazardous home environments is something that can impact anyone – anywhere. Home injuries are almost always preventable, and they’re not just confined to homes with dangerous staircases or fireplaces. Even a safe and comfortable home can have hidden dangers if the occupants are unaware of potential risks. If you’re reading this because you’ve been injured in your home, or know someone who has, take comfort in knowing that these accidents are uncommon and that many of these incidents can be avoided by taking precautions before an accident happens. Understanding the dangers in your home, as well as what you can do to reduce those risks, could help keep you safe while staying at home.
What Exactly is a Home Hazard?
A home hazard is anything that could cause an injury to someone who’s in the home. It could be something you normally think of as being harmless, like a window ledge, or something more obvious like a staircase with loose boards. A home hazard is anything that could cause an injury to someone who’s in the home. Hazards can exist in any part of the home, indoors or out, and they can be present in any type of home, whether it’s a residence or a building with multiple units. Hazards can also vary depending on who is in your home. For example, a child may be at higher risk of injury from a home hazard than an adult.
Staircases are usually a staple of any home, but for those who use them frequently, there’s a risk of falling whenever you climb them. In fact, about one in five stair-related injuries occur in the home. Staircases can pose a risk for everyone in the home, but especially for young children and the elderly. Small children may lose their balance, or an adult may not be able to catch them before they slip and fall. The elderly may lose their footing while climbing, as well as when going down the stairs. All of these groups also have a higher risk of being injured if they’re standing on a stair with a broken or missing board. Even a small hole in the carpeting could cause someone to trip and fall.
Fireplaces and Chimneys
While a fireplace may be a source of warmth and comfort during the colder months, it can also be a danger if not properly maintained. For example, creosote – a substance that can build up in chimneys – can catch fire and cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to fill your home. This can be especially dangerous if you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove in an area like an enclosed porch or an attached garage. Fireplaces can also pose a risk for young children, who may be tempted to play around them or touch the hot surfaces.
Cabinets, Counters, and Windows
Cabinets and countertops are places you may store everyday items like food and cleaning supplies, but they can also be a source of injury if you’re not careful. Cabinets and countertops can be pulled out too quickly and cause someone to fall. Likewise, cabinets that are not properly closed can lead to injuries, especially if small children are in the home. You might also have an accident if you accidentally open a window while standing on a stool or ladder. Falling off ladders or stools have been the cause of many home injuries, so be sure they are stable before climbing on them.
Appliances and Furniture
Appliances may range in size and shape, but they can all pose a risk to you and your home if they’re not properly maintained. Appliance malfunctions that cause fires or electrical shocks are some of the most common hazards. Appliance hazards are especially dangerous for children, who may not realize that a running appliance can be harmful. Likewise, furniture can be a hazard if it’s not stable. If you or someone else is injured as a result of a piece of furniture tipping over, you may want to consider getting rid of it.
Knowing your Hazards: How You Can Stay Safe
Identify Potential Hazards – Take a tour of your home and look for potential hazards. Common hazards include broken stairs, loose wiring, and appliances and furniture that’s unstable. You can also conduct a home hazard audit. During this audit, you’ll mark down potential hazards, such as items that could tip over or items that could cause you to trip or fall. Once you’ve identified all the hazards in your home, the next step is to find the best ways to address them. Replace Damaged Items – If you have items that need to be replaced, be sure to do so as soon as possible. If you have stairs in your home, replace any broken boards as soon as possible. Likewise, if you have appliances that need to be repaired or replaced, take care of it as quickly as you can. Be sure to read the user manuals for appliances like your stove and refrigerator to avoid any potential hazards. Adequately Cover Openings – If you have cabinet drawers or windows that are not fully shut, use a rubber stopper or putty to seal them. This will help ensure that nothing will fall out of them, including a child’s fingers.
Home injuries are almost always preventable, and they’re not just confined to homes with dangerous staircases or fireplaces. Even a safe and comfortable home can have hidden dangers if the occupants are unaware of potential risks. If you’re reading this because you’ve been injured in your home, or know someone who has, take comfort in knowing that these accidents are uncommon and that many of these incidents can be avoided by taking precautions before an accident happens. Understanding the dangers in your home, as well as what you can do to reduce those risks, could help keep you safe while staying at home.