Children are the joy of any household. That first time they take out the dishes from the cabinet to help set the table, the immensely proud parent will forgive a broken bowl or two. When they learn to switch on the television, the great relief of having to get up and do it yourself each time leads you to encourage them to do so regularly.
But there are everyday hazards in the house that you don’t recognise because it doesn’t impact you as an adult. A tip suggested by safety experts to adults is to think back to all they did as a child and were reprimanded about. Climbing the tree in the garden, playing with matchsticks, pulling the dog’s tail. Chances are, if it was wrong back then, it’s wrong now.
Have you taught your children how to do things safely? Do you know what they are doing behind your back? Kids don’t know better, unlike adults, and if the adult doesn’t know either, then it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Unintentional injury is among the leading causes of death in children. Discover the best practices to prevent household accidents and protect your child
For simplicity of understanding and implementation, we will break it down into two sections: Securityand Safety.
When thinking security, think about someone causing physical harm to the children or abducting them. This is not unusual, and in many instances, the aggressor is either an estranged family member or aggrieved domestic help.
All external doors must be locked at all times when children are in the house.
Locking devices (locks, keys, latches) must be placed out of reach of young children.
Windows must be secured at all times by locks or grills, especially those at a significant height from the outside ground level.
Children must be taught never to open the door alone. An adult must always be present with them.
Should the child need to leave the house ensure they are observed at all times. (Going down to the waiting transport for school).
Never allow a child to use the elevator without an adult present. That adult must be someone you trust and not a random neighbour using the elevator.
Never leave a child or children alone at home.
The child should not accept anything from an outsider on their own even if you are in the home. They must have adult supervision.
If a certain relative, friend, servant is no longer welcome then make sure the child understands that.
Never leave the child home alone with domestic help not for one minute. If you can not do so then have CCTV to monitor their activity.
When thinking safety, think about shoving fingers in a low-level power socket, accidentally touching a hot stove, tipping over into a bucket of water, and even drowning. These too are common occurrences that can easily be avoided.
In a previous Uarticle on home safety, we talked briefly about doing a hazard hunt at home. You need to conduct one again, but this time, keeping in mind the relative ease of access for a child to these hazards. Look for the following:
Power sockets that are easily accessible by a child.
Loosely bracketed wall fixtures (children may climb them).
Where is water stored? (open buckets, loosely secured containers etc).
Where are the cleaning liquids stored? Are they locked away? (colourful bottles attract the children but their content is poisonous).
Is the fridge and freezer kept unlocked (glass bottle may break if a child tries to take it out).
Are plastic bags stored in easily accessible spots (children may suffocate if put on their heads).
Is the iron secured before and after use away from a child’s reach?
Are floors regularly polished that can cause a child to slip?
Are the utensils in the kitchen stored out of reach? If not, then do so in a manner that they won’t come crashing down on the child
Medicines: are they kept in a secure place that can be locked and is out of reach of a child?
Are the cords of your curtains within reach of the child?
TIP: Some of the common household hazards for kids are: electrical cords, tables, floors, windows, furniture, walls, doors, curtains, appliances and garbage
Now that you’ve identified some of the major hazards set about rectifying them.
Electrical appliances must never be operated by young children. When they are comfortable with doing this in your presence they can experiment in your absence and that could result in a disaster.
Liquids of all nature must be secured. A child can consume the wrong liquid accidentally or then tip over in to a bucket of water lying unattended and it could result in death.
Curtain cords or other such cords kept around the house in a child’s hand could result in accidental strangulation.
Furniture that is easily moveable by a child should be secured, and nothing that could topple over onto the child should be placed on it.
Furniture should all be sturdy and any loose chair legs or handles immediately fixed.
Edges of tables and other sharp objects should have soft plastic or rubber protection on them.
Small items such as batteries, jewelry, pins and needles should be out of reach.
Perfumes and colognes or other sprays such as insecticides or air fresheners are to be stored out of reach.
Never let a child access the kitchen alone. Install a child safety gate.
Install a child safety gate at the stairs both ends to prevent falls.
Never let a child in to the bathroom alone. Slippery floors, buckets of water, razor blades, shampoos, soaps are all hazardous to them.
Remember to keep the toilet bowl cover closed, children can drown in them.
Install a child safety gate or limit access to the laundry area of the home.
All doors should be checked to see how quickly they close and can they inure a child in the closing or opening action.
Store any breakable items away from their reach.
Electrical points that can be repositioned must have covers installed.
In the kitchen if cooking is being done then children should be kept away.
Stoves should never be left lit unattended.
Candles and matches must always be out of reach.
Remotes with missing battery covers must be secured or replaced as a child can remove the battery and swallow accidentally.
Children’s toys, , must be used under supervision of an adult.
Children’s interaction with pets must be supervised, even if the pet seems harmless. The child may inadvertently do something to the pet that could provoke a reaction that could be harmful for a child.
What you can do easily is what you must do immediately. What will make you incur an expense or needs extra effort should be isolated from the child’s reach. Alternatively, ensure proper supervision. Through a combination of these measures, you can enjoy many special moments with your children and stay safe doing it.
Norbert Almeida is a security advisor.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 17th, 2014