Reviewed by health expert Sally Russell, MN, CMSRN, CNE
Safety Hazards to Watch for around the House
Creating a safe environment where your family can grow and thrive is a top priority. Thankfully, though a number of serious safety hazards lurk around the average home, most of these concerns are pretty easy to address.
Make sure you’re doing everything you can to achieve maximum safety at home. Consult this guide of nine common safety hazards in the home to learn quick and simple solutions for keeping you and your loved ones out of harm’s way.
Watch out for these safety hazards
Injuries due to falls are one of the most common household hazards. In fact, one out of five older adults who falls incurs a broken bone or a head injury.1 Wet floors, slippery stairs, and scattered toys all create the potential for falls.
Make sure all staircases have solid handrails, securely affixed flooring, adequate lighting, and safety gates if there are small children in the home. The Regalo Easy Step Walk Thru Gate (about $35*) is adjustable to most spaces and easy to use, even with a baby in your arms.
Finally, be sure to keep the stairs clear of any tripping hazards. It's tempting to put things laundry near the stairs to put away on your next trip up or down, but those can also be easy to pass up and trip over when you're in a rush.
Clear outdoor steps
Cover slippery surfaces in bathrooms
Secure your rugs to avoid slipping and to prevent water from pooling on slick surfaces. Non-slip stickers like SlipX Solutions Safety Treads (about $9*) are a particularly good way to keep everyone in your home from slipping in the shower.
Install supports showers and bathtubs
Install safety rails like the Medline Bathtub Grab Bar (about $31*) to help family members old and young safely get in and out of the shower. Or use a Changing Lifestyles Safe-er-Grip Balance Assist Bar (about $7*), which is small enough to fit in any shower. You can add more than one to provide extra support to older family members and others who need additional help.
In 2018, there were more than 363,000 fires in US homes, causing everything from mild smoke damage to total devastation, including the loss of 3,655 lives.2 Even candles or an unattended iron can lead to accidental fires in your home, but there is a lot you can do to prevent a home fire from getting out of hand.
Install fire alarms
Install fire alarms on all levels of your home, and check and change the batteries at least annually for better fire safety. Consider investing in a smart smoke detector like Google Nest Protect† (about $119*).
This alarm uses Wi-Fi to provide real-time updates. And you can access remote monitoring right on your smartphone or other mobile device.
If you don't want a mobile app on your smoke alarm, consider getting a non-connected model like the Kidde Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm with Voice Warning (about $35*).
Buy a fire extinguisher
Keep at least one fire extinguisher in your home—and check it annually to make sure it's in good working order. Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher, like the Kidde FA110 (about $40*), handy in the kitchen or near the fireplace.
Never leave unattended candles or use them near loose cloth like drapes or blankets. Also, make sure this fire hazard stays out of reach of children and that pets can’t knock them over.
Unplug unused appliances
Avoid electrical fires by making sure that all appliances are in good working order and no wires are frayed. Don’t overload electrical outlets, either. In fact, it’s a smart electrical safety practice to unplug small appliances like toasters when not in use.
3. Carbon monoxide
Low exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) can cause headaches and dizziness, while high levels can lead to vomiting, impaired vision, and even death.
Carbon monoxide is virtually impossible to detect by smell, sight, or sound, making it a difficult threat to discern. But there are things you can do to ward off CO-related injuries.
Install a CO detector
You can help keep your family safe by installing a carbon monoxide detector that alerts you if CO reaches dangerous levels in your home. A detector that plugs into an electrical outlet, like the Kidde Nighthawk Alarm (about $28*), provides extra reassurance and saves you from needing to change batteries. And combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors pull double-duty.
Keep up with home maintenance
Prevent carbon monoxide leaks by having a professional service your HVAC system, water heater, and other appliances that use gas, oil, or coal at least once a year. If you’re buying an older home, have a professional inspect these systems before purchase so you can fix problems before moving in.
Choking is the fourth-largest cause of accidental death in the US, claiming over 5,000 victims in 2015.3 From a bite of dinner going down the wrong way to a young one accidentally swallowing a small item, choking is scary. Educate yourself with these safety tips about choking hazards, and take measures to keep your family safe.
Regularly inspect toys for any loose parts. Scour floors for small toys or items where little hands might easily find them.
Keep choking hazards out of reach
Be sure to keep small, hard foods like nuts or candies out of reach of children. Pay special attention at adult gatherings where children can more easily sneak something unnoticed.
Even if your child is no longer an infant, a baby monitor can still come in handy. Use this gadget to listen in for signs of choking when children are playing in another room.
Cut up food
This one seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately there are a number of common items with sharp edges inside and outside your home. Everything from an open food can to a garden hoe can be dangerous.
Close the trash can
Use a locking garbage can to protect small fingers and pets from finding sharp edges on open food cans and lids. We suggest something like this product from Simplehuman (about $50*), an attractive solution that adds an extra layer of safety to your kitchen.
Store kitchen tools properly
Knives, graters, and peelers are common items that can lead to nasty cuts. Properly store all sharp kitchen tools and lock them up if you have small children in the home.
Lock up bathroom sharps
If you use a razor, keep it on a high shelf or lock it in a cabinet. Store extra blades in drawers with safety guards and safely stow other grooming tools like cuticle scissors as well.
Child safety locks are easy to install and keep little fingers away from unintentional injury.
Point knives and forks down in the dishwasher
Keep little ones safe from sharp points by pointing knives and forks downward in the utensil basket of the dishwasher. Place the basket away from the front of the dishwasher to make sharp objects even less accessible.
Put away yard tools
Lawn tools, including rakes, saws, and lawnmowers, can cause harm if not used and stored properly. Stay alert when using power tools, and never rush while mowing the lawn or using the weed whacker. Never leave tools lying around . Always keep them locked in a shed or garage where kids can’t access them.
There were over two million poisoning incidents reported to poison control centers nationwide in 2018.4 Several household items present poisoning hazards, including cleaning and home maintenance supplies.
However, a little diligence and the right know-how can decrease the chance of accidental poisoning in your family.
Store medications properly
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can prove extremely hazardous to children and teens. Dispose of all unused medications, and never leave them out on a counter. Solutions like the locking Eoere Medicine Cabinet (about $31*) are a convenient way to keep medications handy without making them vulnerable to accidental discovery.
Keep paint out of reach
Even paint that isn’t lead based needs proper storage to stay out of reach of children. Never put paint in a container other than the one it came in. Otherwise, your child may mistake it for a drink or something else.
Secure all chemicals
Protect both children and pets from accidental poisoning by securing your cleaning supplies. Keep all household cleaners in a high cupboard with a safety lock to keep kids and animals from accidentally finding them. Lock up pesticides and items like turpentine in a cupboard or lockbox in the garage or shed.
Put away personal care products
Keep all makeup, hair products, soaps, and other personal products out of the reach of children and pets. Use safety latches on all doors and drawers to help keep even the most determined youngsters out.
Lock up detergent
As with all household cleaners, lock laundry and dishwasher detergents out of reach of pets and kids. If you use detergent pods, make sure children don’t mistake them for candy. Never fill the soap dispenser until you’re ready to start a load and always check your dishwasher for leftover residue after each cycle.
Cords on window dressings like blinds or curtains present a common strangling hazard to small children and infants.5 Here are three ways you can help make your home safer for little ones.
Put away cords
Keep window and electrical cords out of reach of little ones. Never place a crib or bed under a window with dangling cords. If you use an extension cord, make sure to put it away after it’s no longer needed.
Trim or remove window cords
To keep children from tangling themselves up, trim cords to a length that is only accessible to the adults in the home. Better yet, trade out window treatments for designs without cords.
Wrap up blind cords
Drowning isn’t only a risk when swimming or playing in water outside—it can also present a hazard in the home. On average, two-thirds of childhood drownings occur in a bathtub,6 so do your part to prevent drowning with these two tips:
Put away buckets
If you use buckets for cleaning, keep them empty and away from water sources.
Attend to bathing children
It only takes a few inches of water for a child or infant to drown, so never leave a child alone in the bathtub, and always close the toilet lid.
Burns may not seem like a common household hazard, but they’re a risk whenever you use dishwashers and stoves. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can help ensure no one in your family feels the searing heat of a fresh burn.
Latch the dishwasher
Make sure your dishwasher latches securely at all times to prevent curious fingers from opening the door, particularly at the end of a cycle when burns from steam are most likely to occur. Add the Safety 1st Appliance Lock (around $5*) as an extra measure to keep stop accidental dishwasher access.
Use the back burners
Most burns occur in the home and workplace, and children and women are most likely to suffer a burn in the kitchen.7 To prevent burns, use the back burners on your stove when possible. This makes it more difficult for kids to accidentally touch a hot stovetop. Never rest tempting items like cookies or toys on the stovetop, even when it’s not in use.
Add stove knob covers
Stoves—especially gas ones—are the perfect place for something to accidentally catch on fire. Protect your home from a potential fire by adding stove knob covers, like these from Safety 1st (about $11 for a 5-pack*). They keep small hands from turning on burners or grownups from inadvertently knocking burners to the “on” position.
Nothing is more important than keeping your family safe. Knowing which precautions to take makes your job as family protector a little easier, but no one can be on duty all the time.
You may want to get some help protecting your loved ones with a monitored security system. Most current systems offer home automation and remote access so you can make sure everything is okay as often as you want.
- Fear vs. Reality: Which Household Accidents Should You Worry About?
- How to Prevent Falls
- 8 Ways to Stay Safe in the Kitchen
- The Complete Backyard Safety Checklist
- Room-by-Room Guide to Senior Home Safety
- How Can I Keep My Child Safe in the Pool or at a Lake?
- Smart Home Automation Devices to Get You Through the Toddler Years
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Important Facts about Falls"
- National Fire Protection Association, "Fire Loss in the United States in 2018"
- National Safety Council, "Choking Prevention and Rescue Tips"
- National Capital Poison Center, "Poison Statistics National Data 2018"
- Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Window Covering Cords Information Center"
- Lifesaving Resources, "Bathtub Drownings: Beware of the Hazards and Risks to Young Children"
- World Health Organization, "Burns"
*Amazon.com list price as of 07/23/2020 at 3:09 p.m. (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
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†Google Nest Protect, Google Nest, Google, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.