Your home is your safe place. But did you know there are a number of serious safety hazards that lurk around?
No matter how careful you are, there will always be certain things that pose a risk to you or your family members. For those who have young children or older adults living in their home, the chances of household accidents increase drastically.
While falls are the most common and fatal household accidents in the U.S., there are many other safety hazards to watch out for around the house. From faulty electrical systems to lose railings, you must take precautions as a homeowner.
Thankfully, most household accidents can be avoided quite easily. With this guide, we show you how to conduct a home safety inspection that will help you create a safe living environment for everyone in your household.
Home safety isn’t as simple as it seems.
No matter how careful you are as a homeowner, you can’t anticipate how or when an accident will happen. Something as simple as a loose railing or an unattended toy can prove fatal.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12,000 children and young adults, die from unintentional injuries each year. Among the top causes of accidental deaths in household incidents are suffocation, drowning, fires, and poisoning. While many accidents occur in the least supervised areas, you’ll be surprised to know that most fatal injuries can happen in plain sight.
The National Fire Protection Association claims that on average, seven people die in U.S. home fires every day. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires, followed by heating and electrical distribution, and smoking materials.
The CDC notes that children in the household are at the highest risk for at-home injury and death. In the past two years, almost 4,600 children under 15 have been reported to die from unintentional injuries related to suffocation, choking, poisoning, or other accidents.
While these concerns may be predictable, other safety hazards are not so obvious to homeowners. They include carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, and drowning.
Fire safety is more than just smoke alarms.
In the U.S., house fires are pretty frequent, claiming up to 2,560 lives per year. It’s important that homeowners first identify if they have adequate resources and a plan in place to tackle a house fire, no matter how small or large it may be. By law, you are required to install smoke alarms in your home, but fire safety doesn’t just stop there.
Homeowners should have a fire extinguisher, but not just that: all members of the household should know how to use it and where it is stored. On top of making sure you have installed the required number of smoke alarms around your house, make it a habit to regularly inspect them to check they’re in working condition.
A simple house fire can quickly get out of control. If you are properly equipped with the necessary resources and equipment, you will be able to nip most in the bud. Here’s a great resource by Red Cross that can help you get started on home fire safety.
If you do find yourself in a more severe fire accident, get out from the nearest exit and call the fire department.
Inspecting your electrical system
Did you know that electrocution from low-voltage current claimed on average 48 lives every year between 2010-2013? Most homeowners fail to or don’t know how to inspect electrical outlets, so it’s essential to hire a professional for an electrical home safety inspection. They will be able to identify problems that require immediate attention and have someone certified to come in and safely handle the repairs to meet building codes standards.
But how do you know if there is an electrical problem? These are a few signs:
Funny odors coming from wires or plugs
Buzzing sounds coming from an appliance
Warm or sparkling outlets
Rodent droppings near outlets (mice love to chew on electric wires!)
While you’ll need to call a professional to help with these concerns, there are ways you can ensure safety when it comes to electrical outlets.
To avoid electrocution or injuries related to electrical systems, ensure that all outlets are secured with a switch protector or cover at all times. It’s also important to reduce wire clutter and deal with any exposed electrical work around the house.
Young children—particularly toddlers—are more likely to experience a shock as they’re prone to biting electrical cords or poking metal objects into unprotected outlets or appliances. Keep kids away from cords and outlets.
There’s also the risk of electrocution from seasonal hazards, most commonly during the Christmas season when children and adults are exposed to lights and other electronic decorations.
Don’t overlook your HVAC system.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a common cause of household injuries and deaths. Essentially, carbon monoxide is created when something burns. A faulty furnace or an overworked gas heater can substantially increase the level of carbon monoxide in the air and potentially poison those in your home; other causes include overheating appliances or poor ventilation.
Carbon monoxide can be dangerous as a person may not recognize its effects immediately. Symptoms can range from vomiting, drowsiness, and headaches (mild poisoning) to loss of memory and poor coordination (severe poisoning).
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, it's important to have indoor sources of combustion properly installed and ventilated by a licensed professional. Homeowners should also make a habit of installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors along with smoke alarms to ensure they’re adequately monitoring CO2 levels.
HVAC maintenance by a professional is essential to safety and can help reduce the chance of accidents, improve the quality of air in your home, and avoid costly repairs.
It’s also important to note that heating is not the only cause of gas leaks in homes. Other appliances such as stove and water heaters also use gas. How can you tell if there’s a leak in the house?
Look for the following signs inside and outside your home:
Strong “rotten egg” odor inside the house
A hissing sound coming from an appliance that is leaking gas
Bubbles in water
Damaged gas pipes
A higher gas bill
Other factors to consider
There are certain areas of your house that will always pose a risk to you or your family members. If you have young children or toddlers, you need to be extra careful and take certain precautions to safeguard them from injuries.
Childproofing is a great way to maintain proper safety and can be done in a few simple steps.
Install safety latches on cabinets and drawers to keep children away from hazardous or poisonous household products, flammable liquids, and appliances.
Store medication and other similar products in hard-to-reach places, in original containers.
Use safety gates to block stairways, and locks to keep children away from rooms that are not supervised.
Place furniture away from high windows so children don’t climb on window sills.
Secure furniture such as dressers and chest of drawers from tipping over.
Put corner and edge bumpers on furniture corners to protect against injury.
Another area of concern that is often overlooked by homeowners is the outdoors. For example, ensuring that you have adequate lighting outside of your home can prevent falls and slips. Also, during holiday season, outdoor lighting is a major cause of accidents. Homeowners should avoid overloading extension cords and electrical sockets with light strands as they can cause a short circuit. Always hang lights with caution.
Safety doesn’t stop once we leave the worksite. Knowing how to inspect your home for signs of danger is an essential skill that everyone should exercise!